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BIPR | The Human Trafficking Initiative Series – Legalization of Migrant Workers under Covid 19: A Tale of Two Countries
The Human Trafficking Initiative Series – Legalization of Migrant Workers under Covid 19: A Tale of Two Countries

December 14, 2020 - 18:30

Giulia Crescini - America Hernandez - Alexandra Malangone

Event Recap

The Bologna Institute for Policy Research (BIPR) hosted a virtual seminar on the legalization of migrant workers during Covid-19, taking a closer look at Italy and the United States. Sara Pennicino of SAIS-Europe begins by introducing the series and the speakers.

Alexandra Malangone introduces the Italian context stating that Italy has faced criticism for the working conditions of its (migrant) workers with systemic violations of labor legislation, occupational, health and safety provisions, trafficking and labor exploitation being normalized in various sectors of Italian economy. Italian agricultural sector is heavily dependent on seasonal migrant workers, mainly from Eastern Europe and North Africa, who make up one third of the seasonal legal workforce. This year, because of travel restrictions, there was a shortfall of 250,000 workers, according to Italy’s biggest agriculture association Coldiretti. The gap could have been filled by the estimated 200,000 undocumented farmworkers, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, says Yvan Sagnet, founder of No Cap. Alexandra Malangone asks Giulia Crescini if the legalization of migrant workers during Covid19 as implemented by the new Article 103 of the Law 34 of 19 May 2020, has achieved its objectives.

Giulia Crescini starts the discussion by saying that the new regularization law was initially greeted by some as a major step forward for workers rights and as an example of good migration policy during the coronavirus pandemic, Yet, it remains an extraordinary measure, one of the 9 regularizations held in the past 35 years. Crescini continues by describing the changes introduced by the provisions of the Law….on regularization of migrant workers in Italy, focusing specifically on migrant workers in the agricultural field.

Crescini emphasizes that receiving residency permits is necessary for expanding rights and protections for migrants in the agricultural industry, particularly at a time when COVID-19 limits the resources available to ensure basic natural rights. Crescini argues that legalization and residency permits primarily serve workers to be able to demand fair wages, acceptable hours and related compliance with the basic human rights, like social guarantees. New Italian law does not seem to fully address these needs. Long-term regularization solutions, such as repealing the so-called security decrees of the previous executive, approving the reform of the law on Italian citizenship and giving a residence permit to those who do not have it or have it temporarily, released from the will of the employers only, are needed.

Next, Alexandra Malangone introduces the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows undocumented “Dreamers” who came to the United States as children to get temporary legal status and to live and work legally without the constant looming threat of immigration enforcement officers knocking on their doors. Many of these cca 700.000 young people have grown up almost entirely in the US and are deeply rooted in their communities. DACA recipients currently make up an important part of the U.S. workforce. According to a study by the Migration Policy Institute, 23% of DACA recipients who are working are in the accommodations and agrifood services industry, 14% are in retail trade, 11% are in construction, 11% are in educational, health and social services, and 10% are in professional, scientific, management, administrative, or waste management jobs. The US Supreme Court with a tight 5-4 vote upheld the lower courts rulings in June 2020, that the program – risking its cancellation under the Trump administration - will not be revoked.

America Hernandez, herself a Dreamer continues the discussion by addressing DACA from her personal experience, highlighting that she herself is also as a daughter of farmworkers. Hernandez argues that DACA is of upmost importance for young immigrants in the U.S., although its protections should be expanded. Expanding DACA protections would allow young immigrant workers to speak out on violations of their human rights either by employers or third-party actors. Hernandez underscores the importance of DACA giving immigrants peace and stability, especially at a time when COVID is economically dismantling family savings. It is also important to note that DACA is limited in its scope (only a temporary immigration relief).

America also discusses Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA), which is similar to the DACA program and allows eligible parents of DACA to apply for temporary relief from deportation and work authorization. A very rough estimate of farmworkers eligible for DAPA is 450,000. America discusses DAPA in connection to DACA and answers Alexandra’s question whether DAPA in connection to DACA has to potential to fulfil the aim of improving protection of migrant workers rights, tackling systemic exploitation and violations labor laws legislats. America confirms that further systemic reforms and immigration relief expansions, including better understanding of the U visa and T visa are needed.

Crescini concludes with outlining alternative proposals for residency permits in Italy. One residency permit proposed was the convertibility of previous permits in which after a permit has expired, it could become a work permit. Comparatively, another proposal is to reintroduce permits for humanitarian reasons, allowing many migrants to be granted a first residence permission that lasts for two years. These permits would then become work permits after the two years are up. Crescini argues that it is first and foremost vital to regularize migrants, which would give them independence in looking for work, increase their agency, foster their empowerment, and avoid linking their residence permit to one employer from the outset.

Full Audio:

The Human Trafficking Initiative Series – Legalization of Migrant Workers under Covid 19: A Tale of Two Countries
Human Trafficking Series

hosted by Professor Sara Pennicino

Giulia Crescini
Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), Italy
America Hernandez
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), US
Alexandra Malangone
Moderator: Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD), Italy

Jointly organized with the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD). Supported by the Associazione di cultura e di studio italo-americana Luciano Finelli Friends of the Johns Hopkins University.

This panel is part of "The Agri-food Industry in the Wake of Covid 19: Countering the Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Italy and the US", a series consisting of two events regarding human trafficking.

In Italy, the so-called ‘caporalato' phenomenon refers to a form of illegal intermediation and exploitation of migrant workers in the agricultural sector, constituting up to one fourth of the total agricultural workforce. In the US, it is an open secret that those harvesting America's food are mainly immigrants and decades-long residents of the country.

The seminar series addresses this form of exploitation of migrant workers in the wake of Covid-19 by comparing policies adopted in Italy and the US. The pandemic brought the high demand for short-term, flexible labor in the agri-food industry to the attention of the general public, as supply chains risked shortages due to lockdown measures imposed by governments. The pandemic thereby exacerbated a pre-existing and long-standing problem of the agricultural and food industry, one which is at the crossroads between organized crime, corruption and trafficking of human beings.

The seminars will tackle this complex phenomenon by bringing together experts and activists, with the goal of offering SAIS students the opportunity to learn about forms of modern slavery and the strategies required to counter human exploitation at a national and international level.

The panel will discuss policy options regarding regularization of undocumented agricultural workers in the U.S. and Italy in the wake of Covid 19. More specifically, the Seminar will focus on the Dreamers movement in the USA and Law n. 34/2020 in Italy.


Giulia Crescini is a lawyer and a member of the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI). She deals with the right to international protection and minority rights, and the rights of children and women against discrimination and illegal practices. Crescini is the scientific coordinator of the Oruka and Sciabaca projects - Beyond the border of ASGI. The projects aim to set up a network of African associations and lawyers, with the goal of exposing European and African countries' responsibility for fundamental rights violations stemming from asylum and border externalization policies.


America Hernandez is a Dreamers movement activist and a Senior Social Services Coordinator at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the leading national organization advocating for the rights of unaccompanied migrant and refugee children in the US. KIND was founded in 2008 by the Microsoft Corporation and UNHCR Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, to address the gap in legal services for unaccompanied minors. Through strategic partnerships, KIND provides pro bono legal representation for refugee and migrant children across the country. Over the past decade, KIND has expanded its services to develop a holistic strategy for addressing the needs of these children and the systemic causes of forced migration. This includes mental and social services, advocating for new law and policy in the US and countries of origin, and educating policymakers and the broader public about these issues. From 2009 to date, more than 20,000 children have been referred to KIND. It has trained over 50,000 participants on how to represent children who are on their own, and fostered over 644 legal partners.


Alexandra Malangone is a Slovak lawyer who has coordinated the CCSDD Human Trafficking Chapter since September 2020. In 2012 Malangone began working for the Human Rights League - a prominent Slovak NGO in the field of immigration and asylum law. She is one of the leading experts on issues relating to the protection of human rights of victims of trafficking in the country. From 2008-2016, she served as an independent national expert in the Council of Europe GRETA (Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings) and was a rapporteur for Denmark, Norway, Italy, Latvia, and Slovenia. From 2006 to 2009 she was a UN Office on Drugs and Crime National Project Officer in Bratislava, Slovakia, heading the local UNODC office. Prior to this, she worked as a junior for the OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. Malangone graduated in International and European Law from Utrecht University and holds a Masters degree in International Cooperation and Development from the University of Pavia. In June 2016, she participated in a three week International Visitor Leadership Programme on Human Trafficking run by the US State Department. Malangone is currently a consultant for the OSCE OSR Office (Simulation based training on combating human trafficking in mixed-migratory flows), OSCE/ODIHR (National Referral Mechanisms), the Council of Europe (Alternatives to Detention), UNODC Morocco (National Referral Mechanism in Morocco) and ECPAT Austria (Safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults).

Business and Human Rights December 14th.pdf
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