Monday, March 5, 2012

Rural Development: Immigration and Farm Workers

One of the major issues that has been a great deal to the United States has been illegal immigrants, particularly from Latin America.  The highest grossing number of Latinos crossing into U.S. soil is from our neighboring country, Mexico.  At the United Nations CSW event that I attended there was a woman who was born and raised in Colombia but migrated to the United States.  Her name is Alina Diaz and she is currently working on a Catholic Charities farmworker project in Ontario, NY.   Alina's job consists of going to different farm sites throughout the state of New York, speaking to thousands of farm workers and listening to their working conditions and their living situations.  From visiting so many sites she has compiled a list of farm workers, the majority being women, and noticed that 88-90% of the workers are immigrants with 55% of them being from mexico and the rest from Central America.   As of late she noticed that farm workers are now coming from other countries in the Caribbean such as Haiti and Jamaica.  A surprising fact that she presented during her speech is that the main income in the state of New York is agricultre.  This was news to me since a state that is located near the northest part of the United States and in which it begins to snow as early as November in Upstate New York, agriculture is a main source of income. As her speech continues, she comments on how she learned that a good portion of farm workers are illegal immigrants.  Due to the influx of illegal immigrants continually to come into this labor market these workers are not being paid.  Once the first couple of weeks past and paychecks are due to these workers, the owners would contact US Border Control and report the illegal immigrants, which allows them to save money by not paying the workers, essentially having free labor. Another great issue that she discussed was the sexual abuse that the female farm workers would face on a day-to-day basis.  In efforts to make a difference Alina contacted Poverty Central in hopes that she would be able to provide farm workers to speak about their experiences that they have encountered for a project called Shame In Your Place.  She was able to provide 25 workers who talked about their living and working conditions, demonstrating how they are currently being taken advantage of by the farm owners.  Listening to such stories and the information that Alina gave was quite startling,  Issues that we see as a national level is currently happening in the backyards of the United Nations.  In hopes that the Shame In Your Place project would go public and make people realize the issues that are currently happening.  One thing that stood out to me that was said is that these workers are human beings, even though they are not legal immigrants, they should still be provided for and not taken advantage of.

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