Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was recently arrested for visa fraud- allegedly paying her housekeeper Sangeeta a mere $3.31 per hour (instead of the $9.75 required under US law), and lying to the US officials about Sangeeta’s real wage and working conditions. In fact, the official complaint alleges that Sangeeta was working “far more than 40 hours per week,” making her wage even less than $3.31. More details of the case involving threats to Sangeeta’s family have emerged since the arrest. While the arrest has sparked a diplomatic row between the US and India, with justifiable concerns about Khobragade’s treatment upon arrest at the center, we must not lose sight of the serious criminal allegations of fraud and worker exploitation. India is trying to shield Khobragade from the consequences of her actions -- making sure Sangeeta never gets a day in court. Tell Secretary Kerry and President Obama that no one should get a “free pass” for violating human rights in the United States.
Here at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), we help thousands of women like Sangeeta who have suffered exploitation and abuse, had their wages stolen, and struggled to achieve basic workplace protections. Today we #StandWithSangeeta and ask you to join us.
The Indian government is trying to deny Sangeeta her day in court, her chance for justice. They are claiming Khobragade had “diplomatic immunity” when she was arrested, and thus cannot be brought to trial. Even worse, instead of asking her to take responsibility for her actions, they are rewarding her with a position in the UN, which they say would solidify her immunity. Diplomatic immunity is a privilege that should not be used as a shield against criminal prosecution for private acts, and the US has the power to decide whether or not to grant her request for reaccreditation to the UN.
Dozens of cases of labor exploitation and human trafficking at the hands of Diplomats have made headlines over the years. Allowing Khobragade to hide behind immunity could undermine a decade of progress in fighting against this kind of abuse.
The United States should refuse to give Khobragade a “free pass” for exploitation. We are asking them to:
- Deny Khobragade’s reaccreditation to the United Nations
- Continue the federal criminal prosecution against her
- Continue to enforce the important regulations that protect Sangeeta and the hundreds of other domestic workers who come to the US with diplomats and international officials from all over the world.
Join us as we #StandWithSangeeta and ask the U.S. government to hold diplomats accountable for labor exploitation.
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