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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Immigration > For the nation’s migrant farmworkers, high temps creating a “Black Summer”

For the nation’s migrant farmworkers, high temps creating a “Black Summer”

LatinaLista — It’s being called the “Black Summer” in the San Joaquin Valley of California these days.
Why?

San Joaquin Valley farm workers spread out to pick the season’s harvest of carrots.
(Source: ucdavis.edu)

Because last Thursday yet another farm worker died of heat stroke.
Jorge Herrera, 37, of Delano, California died almost four weeks after collapsing at the Vignolo Vinyards loading table grapes. He leaves behind a wife, two children and colleagues who are fed up burying their friends for an illness that can easily be avoided — if the government cared to do something.


According to Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, Herrera is the fifth farmworker to die in just under three months. He was originally from El Triunfo, Michoacan, Mexico.
His death follows the premature death of 17-year-old farmworker Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. She died for two simple reasons: not enough water and no shade.
During a time when the legacy of Cesar Chavez is being celebrated across the nation with streets and schools named in his honor, a stamp issued in his likeness and talk of a nation-wide holiday in his memory, the deaths of Herrerra and Jimenez and the other farm workers underscore the fact that Chavez’ work is far from completed. Farm workers are still being abused in the fields and the system is still ignoring them.
The sad part of each of these deaths is that they were preventable if only it was enforced that orchard owners and farmers had to make sure to supply enough water breaks, shade and rest to their workers without them fearing some sort of retaliatory penalty.

Maria Isabel Jimenez was only 17 years old when she died of heat stroke while working in the grape fields.
And in the case of Maria Jimenez, once a worker goes down, help should be immediately sought instead of waiting for two hours like was done with Jimenez.

Maria Isabel had worked nine hours in temperatures that reached 100 degrees inside the vineyard. Her body temperature was 108.4 degrees when she was finally taken to a hospital nearly two hours after collapsing. She died on May 16.

The outrage about this young girl’s death is that only a $262,700 fine was levied against those in charge of employing Jimenez and not criminal charges.
Sadly, even with these deaths, new stories of workers being misled, taken advantage of, forced to live in squalor conditions, deprived of sufficient water, breaks and shade, exposed to lethal pesticides and dangerous equipment are heard every week.
According to a LA Times story:

Workers’ compensation statistics show that farmworkers suffer from heat illness in higher numbers than any other occupational group except firefighters. But unlike farmworkers, few firefighters die of heatstroke. Perhaps it’s the greater access to drinking water and rest breaks that save the lives of firefighters. Perhaps it’s better emergency preparedness and access to first aid. Or maybe it has to do with the value that society places on the lives of people who fight fires as opposed to the lives of those who harvest the nation’s food.

It’s ironic that we are so conscientious in not dealing with factories overseas that employ child labor or subject their workers to sweatshop conditions but we say absolutely nada about boycotting those growers’ produce who run their fields like those factories we so diligently avoid.
While these deaths happened in California, the truth is the blame lies on the entire nation for not having national measures in place that heavily penalize and, when warranted, prosecute those farmers who don’t provide basic housing, food, water, shade and medical attention for their workers.
In a clear example of immigrants doing the work that U.S. workers won’t do, it’s been proven that no one, who can help it, wants to work in these harsh conditions. So, instead of turning our backs on these farm workers because they’re immigrants, this is just one example where we better start showing our appreciation for their hard labor because when they decide they’ve had enough, we’re going to be feeling the “pangs” of their absence.

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Comment(33)

  • Avatar
    yave begnet
    August 6, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Powerful post, Marisa. Our government is not doing nearly enough to protect these workers … instead it is targeting them as well, making them less able to negotiate reasonable working conditions with their employers. This in turn drives down wages and diminishes worker protections for all workers. Let’s hope someday soon we get a government that cares about protecting workers, not pushing them into a second-class existence.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    August 7, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I look forward to the day when picking crops becomes more automated. Problem solved.

  • Avatar
    laura
    August 7, 2008 at 8:59 am

    Dear Marisa,
    this is horrifying. How can we as a nation accept that the people who feed us are dying in such an excrutiating way?
    I just looked up the United Farmworkers site, and in fact they have a call to action for emailing and faxing California Governor Schwarzenegger, so that the laws on the books to protect farmworkers are actually enforced.
    The site is
    http://www.ufwaction.org/campaign/heatdeath13?qp_source=web
    I would suggest everyone who finds these unnecessary, painful deaths appalling, to send a message too.

  • Avatar
    Marisa Treviño
    August 7, 2008 at 9:32 am

    Thank you, Laura. You have a great idea!

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 7, 2008 at 9:45 am

    There’s something about the H-2A Visa that comes to mind in this situation. If the workers had the visa and the farmers applied for the visa, then the workers would have full employee protection. Even the UFW is now looking for workers in Mexico to bring in with the H-2A visa.
    http://www.ufw.org/_page.php?menu=organizing&inc=keycampaign/globalhorizons/GH_ALCA.htm
    Seems the UFW understands that in order for workers to be protected and to have any legal rights to proper working conditions, then the H-2A visa is the way to go.
    “We believe that this new franchise, PAR Laborâ„¢, formed from H2A workers that will be UFW members, is a giant step forward in helping mitigate the shortage of farm labor in the US.
    For the first time in US history there was a commitment by the farm labor stakeholders to work together so that farmers can simplify the process necessary to access an H2A PAR Laborâ„¢ workforce – a workforce which is highly trained, process-focused and compliant with all current immigration regulations, and, one which will allow workers, who qualify to become participants in the PARâ„¢ Labor pool, to know that their wage and benefits condition meets and exceeds all the requirements set forth in the current H2A visa temporary worker program.”

  • Avatar
    Terrible
    August 7, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    This is so tragic and so uneccassary. It’s outright disgusting the way some companies treat their workers. It’s too bad the workers themselves aren’t in a position to boycott those companies. Being unable to get workers would wake them up to the need for proper respect for the workers in a hurry.

  • Avatar
    Royal Mason
    August 7, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    To Frank – automation is not “problem solved,” automation is yet another problem created. The problem to be solved is man’s inhumanity to man. It is how we live together as brothers and sisters on this earth. Machines can do nothing about that.

  • Avatar
    EYES OF TEXAS
    August 7, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Machines can relieve the back breaking labor done by our brothers and sisters on this earth so they can do something more beneficial for America, like stay south of the border. With no AG jobs they will have no reason to illegally enter the country and be subjected to such harsh treatment.

  • Avatar
    Irma
    August 7, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Marisa,
    Were any of these vineyards supplying grapes for American winemakers?
    MALDEF should be made aware of this.
    Perhaps they can file a class action suit.
    What has happened is atrocious. Years ago, my grandparents , mother and
    her siblings labored under the hot sun picking cotton. I personally met a
    graduate student applicant whose parents still pick strawberries for a living in California.
    Almost 80 years have passed and people
    are still suffering in the agricultural industry.
    It is a national disgrace.

  • Avatar
    Lee
    August 7, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    What a sad state of affairs that those who choose to skirt the laws of the land place themselves in such an awful position. Tragic that they can’t legally negotiate enhanced employment conditions because the vast majority are here ILLEGALLY. All those who hire, aid and abet these poor souls should be severely fined and imprisoned. Ultimately, BOTH the employer and the employee are responsible for the deaths because of poor choices. If our current immigration laws were enforced we would not be experiencing so many horrific deaths.

  • Avatar
    Publius
    August 7, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    “Powerful post, Marisa. Our government is not doing nearly enough to protect these workers … instead it is targeting them as well, making them less able to negotiate reasonable working conditions with their employers.”
    The argument of citizen employment rights is valid, but since these illegal immigrants are not entitled to work and are deportable, any argument for their rights is moot. ICE says they are targeting those who steal identities of citizens, so this isn’t just a case of an agency with nothing better to do. By the tone of this conversation, one wouldn’t think that citizens as injured parties have no rights at all. If someone stole my idenitiy, I would certainly want him/her arrested, wouldn’t any of you? What about you Begnet? Would you be so forgiving if someone turned your life upside down by stealing your identity? You would squeal like the cartoon character you emulate.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    August 7, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Royal, how is picking crops through automation creating another problem? It would solve the problem of hiring illegal aliens to do that kind of work and therefore they wouldn’t be abused.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 8, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Lee :
    What a sad state of affairs that those who choose to skirt the laws of the land place themselves in such an awful position. Tragic that they can’t legally negotiate enhanced employment conditions because the vast majority are here ILLEGALLY. All those who hire, aid and abet these poor souls should be severely fined and imprisoned. Ultimately, BOTH the employer and the employee are responsible for the deaths because of poor choices.
    As consumers we are also to blame, we should all make it a point to look for meat, fruits and veggies produced in other countries.
    That way we can start getting used to not eating meat and produce on a regular bases.
    Our bodies can start becoming acclimated to eating tainted produce from other countries that dont have strict control over growing and processing foods.
    And we can start getting used to paying higher prices for mideocre produce and meat products. How does 5 bucks a pop for an apple sound.
    If we keep letting bigots dictate how this country should be run that is what we are going to do anyway.
    If you really believe this country should rid itself of immigrants from Mexico. I suggest you put your money where your mouth is and STOP AIDING AND ABETING THEM ALSO. DON’T BUY ANY OF THE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES THEY BRING YOU AT AFFORDABLE PRICES.
    START BOYCOTTING OFFICE BUILDINGS, MALLS, HOSPITALS, OR ANY PLACE THAT IS CLEANED BY THEM.
    BOYCOTT FIELDS AND ORCHARDS WHERE THEY ARE HARVESTING THE FOOD YOU EAT.
    BOYCOTT CONSTRUCTION SITES WHEN YOU SEE THEM WORKING.
    BOYCOTT MEAT PROCESSING PLANTS.
    BOYCOTT THE FACTORIES THEY WORK IN THAT BRING US PLASTIC PRODUCTS AT LOW PRICES.
    DON’T DRIVE ON THE ROADS THEY BUILD AND MAINTAIN. DON’T USE BRIDGES EITHER.

  • Avatar
    Royal Mason
    August 8, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Frank, they wouldn’t be abused, they would be unemployed and the problem remains the same, do we have mutual concern, compassion and respect for each other or not. If not, the problem reemerges somewhere else. What’s more difficult – to buy millions of dollars of machinery or provide a little water and shade for your workers? If you automate a profession, fine – but where will the people work and how will they live? Machines are not inherently bad, but they aren’t a substitute for the heart and the soul.

  • Avatar
    Your Uncle Bastard
    August 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    What in the utter hell is the matter with some of you posters??! Lee and Publius, I’m looking RIGHT AT YOU.
    “Blah blah whine whine whine, they are here illegally so they should have no rights, cry whine blabber…”
    Y’all could be shilling for John McCain with attitudes like that. And I bet you’d both call yourselves good Christians. My my my, your mothers must be so proud.
    Do you heartless, narrowminded cretins have ANY idea how brave people have to be to give up everything they know for a CHANCE at a better life? How difficult it is to remain almost incomprehensibly poor even AFTER you risk everything to come here, but you slave away anyway because you believe in the promise that drew you?
    Immigrants leave behind their families, they give up customs and cultures, familiar places and foods and language and friends to come to a place where their basic human dignity is degraded by animalistic treatment and atrocious living conditions, and is endlessly debated by f*cktards on comment boards.
    Your callousness blows me away. May you never find yourself in a similar position, having to depend upon troglodytes like yourselves to do the right thing so you can stay alive and bust your ass for peanuts.
    WWJD, indeed.

  • Avatar
    John Taurus
    August 8, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    The illegal immigrants should not be here in the first place.
    The deaths are sad, but, they should not have been here in this country.
    That immigration law is not enforced makes a mockery of all law.
    Is it not selective prosecution to arrest a drug dealer for breaking the law and not illegals.
    A law is a law. If you are not going to enforce all laws then why enforce any?

  • Avatar
    Frank
    August 8, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    There is no way of knowing the legal status of those harvesting food or working anywhere else. To make the ludicrous suggestion that we boycott every business in this country and stop eating fruits, veggies and meats because there is the “possibility” that an illegal worker mights have been involved is stupid beyond belief! Are we to cut off our noses to spite our faces?
    What we need to do is deport illegal aliens, use e-verify to determine the right to work in this country and secure our borders. That is the answer not some idiotic plan to destroy our economy and our bodies.

  • Avatar
    Publius
    August 8, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Advantages of machines over man:
    1. Don’t get tired.
    2. Don’t need employer paid unemployment insurance.
    3. Don’t get employer paid portion of Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.
    4. Don’t complain.
    5. Don’t go out on strike.
    6. Are never late for work.
    7. Don’t steal from employers.
    8. Productivity is independent of mood and weather.
    9. Don’t need port-a-potties.
    10. Don’t need water.
    11. Don’t ask for raises.
    12. Don’t take vacations.
    I could go on and on, but I think that I’ve made my case. Frank is correct and his argument is supported by the history of mechanization over the centuries. The availability of cheap manual labor of exploited illegal aliens has inhibited the march of progress within this country. Force industry to give them a living wage, with benefits, and see the unskilled illegal aliens eventually unemployed and on his way back to Mexico and replaced by machines.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 8, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Frank :
    There is no way of knowing the legal status of those harvesting food or working anywhere else. To make the ludicrous suggestion that we boycott every business in this country and stop eating fruits, veggies and meats because there is the “possibility” that an illegal worker mights have been involved is stupid beyond belief! Are we to cut off our noses to spite our faces?
    E
    Exactly, so is this because it cant be done.
    “look forward to the day when picking crops becomes more automated.”
    It’s been tried. Thing is the machine doesent know which fruit is ripe. The strawberry picker mashed the strawberries.
    Thank you for helping me make my point.
    Sensible thing to do is enact CIR which includes a guest worker program.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 8, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Publius :
    Advantages of machines over man:
    1. Don’t get tired.
    2. Don’t need employer paid unemployment insurance.
    3. Don’t get employer paid portion of Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.
    4. Don’t complain.
    5. Don’t go out on strike.
    6. Are never late for work.
    7. Don’t steal from employers.
    8. Productivity is independent of mood and weather.
    9. Don’t need port-a-potties.
    10. Don’t need water.
    11. Don’t ask for raises.
    12. Don’t take vacations.
    The only problem is they dont work.
    If you have something on the drawing board that you think could be useful to farmers please show us. If not then I think until someone comes up with a better Idea, unless we want to eat imported food at very high prices that may be contaminated, I suggest we start THINKING OF WAYS FARMERS CAN EMPLOY WILLING LEGAL WORKERS.

  • Avatar
    Frank
    August 9, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    BS! The automation machines we have in place are quite efficient. New technology is always in the making. There are countries over in Europe that rely on automation to pick crops nearlly 100%.

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 9, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Evelyn says:
    “unless we want to eat imported food at very high prices that may be contaminated”
    Here are just some foods eaten by just about everybody that are 90%+ imported into the USA from other countries, mostly from Latin America….. BANANAS! PAPAYAS! MANGOES! or KIWI! from New Zealand or Chile.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn Chavez
    August 9, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    This excerpt is out of an article that shows that many fruits, nuts and vegetables are harvested by machines and also why many have tried, but cant.
    Alternatives to Immigrant Labor?
    The Status of Fruit and Vegetable
    Harvest Mechanization in the United States
    By Yoav Sarig, James F. Thompson, and Galen K. Brown
    Commercial use of harvest machinery also slowed because of several technological hurdles. Mechanical harvesting technology may be adopted by one production area, but not by another because of the unique differences in factors such as climate, soil, terrain, labor, crop mix, market, utilization, variety, and tree or plant type. Lack of uniform maturity and differences in criteria for readiness for harvest between different horticultural crops, and even between species and varieties, made it very complicated to substitute machines for human judgment and dexterity. Selecting only mature product for harvest, as practiced with many hand harvested fruits and vegetables, is still very difficult to achieve with machines.
    Most important of all is the mechanical damage incurred during mechanical harvest, which has been the major deterrent to continued development of mechanical harvesting systems for fresh fruit and vegetable crops. Most currently available mechanical harvesting systems for processed crops often cause produce damage that cannot be tolerated by the fresh market industry. This is in contrast with the mandatory requirements for high post-harvest produce quality which is becoming extremely important as more fresh fruits and vegetables are being exported to distant markets in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and must reach these markets in optimal condition.
    Because of the complexity involved in the introduction of mechanized systems, growers generally use hand labor as long as workers are available when needed, and can be hired at a reasonable cost. Mechanical harvesting is usually adopted only when labor is not available or when appreciable savings will result. Mechanization often also requires a large capital investment and can reduce the growers flexibility to change from one crop to another, or from one market to another. Thus, for many horticultural crops, harvesting has continued to be entirely a hand operation performed by seasonal migrant workers. When local labor sources dwindled, supplementary imported workers have been used under the authority of appropriate Public Laws.

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 10, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Evelyn says:
    “I suggest we start THINKING OF WAYS FARMERS CAN EMPLOY WILLING LEGAL WORKERS. ”
    Isn’t there a visa called the H-2A with an unlimited cap, meaning farmers can bring in as many people as they need? Why is it not being used? Is it because the farmer actually has to accept responsibility for his employees? I suggest we start making the farmers use whats there, the H-2A visa!

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 10, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    To say that mechanical harvesters “dont work” on your behalf is mere ignorance. They do work, even your CIS article, from year 2000, states “The number of crops and percentage of crop acreage that are mechanically harvested today have increased somewhat since the late 1970s. Most of these crops are used for processing.”
    2000 CIS Summary
    The hand harvesting of fruit and vegetable crops in the United States is a labor-intensive operation that accounts for about 50 percent of total production costs. The number of crops and percentage of crop acreage that are mechanically harvested today have increased somewhat since the late 1970s. Most of these crops are used for processing. However, at least 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. vegetable acreage and 40 to 45 percent of the U.S. fruit acreage is totally dependent on hand harvesting. The crops represent about 30 percent of the U.S. fruit, nut, and vegetable acreage and have an annual farm-gate value of over $13 billion. Declining labor availability and increasing labor costs are reducing U.S. growers competitiveness with foreign suppliers. Harvest mechanization and improved production technologies show promise for keeping U.S. growers in business.
    by Alan Goldfarb
    November 8, 2006
    “one small producer in the prestigious Dry Creek AVA in Sonoma has already begun to use machines to pick his Syrah, eschewing the use of farm workers to pick his grapes. By using mechanical devices, he explained, “You get more free-run (juice).” Additionally he said, “Now you can do night picking, so that the fruit is cool and holds its sugars.”
    Pity the poor neighbors.”
    So as you can see, mechanical harvesters can be used, can be improved upon as any machine, and will continue to be more widely used throughout the Agricultural community.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn Chavez
    August 11, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Liquidmicro :
    To say that mechanical harvesters “dont work” on your behalf is mere ignorance.
    E
    GGGeeeeezzzz
    Do you really think they wrote that article on my behalf?
    Thanks for pointing that out. However I highly doubt it.
    To JG
    You didnt find that information on this forum because it isn’t here. There is no profile of forum members here.

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 12, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Do you forget what you type, Evelyn? Go back to Aug. 8 @ 11:47 PM, your response to Publius. You stated about the advantages of Machines over men: The only problem is they “dont work.”
    My response of: To say that mechanical harvesters “dont work” on your behalf is mere ignorance., was in regards to that, not the posted article.
    My next post pointing out your article and showing that mechanical harvesting has increased since the late ’70’s and even more so since your CIS article of 2000. It has increased even more since 2000 through today and has its purposes.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 13, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Do you forget what you type, Evelyn? Go back to Aug. 8 @ 11:47 PM, your response to Publius. You stated about the advantages of Machines over men: The only problem is they “dont work.”
    E
    The fact that you misinterpret my statement at the bottom of the article as one of the advantages, even though you can clearly see it doesent have a number like the rest of the advantages, and the space between the advantages and my statement is wider is
    bewildering. Maybe you need glasses.
    Advantages of machines over man:
    1. Don’t get tired.
    2. Don’t need employer paid unemployment insurance.
    3. Don’t get employer paid portion of Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare.
    4. Don’t complain.
    5. Don’t go out on strike.
    6. Are never late for work.
    7. Don’t steal from employers.
    8. Productivity is independent of mood and weather.
    9. Don’t need port-a-potties.
    10. Don’t need water.
    11. Don’t ask for raises.
    12. Don’t take vacations.
    The only problem is they dont work.
    I stated they dont work because that is what this article says. OK now go ahead and spin all you want.
    Facts are right here for everyone to see.
    Commercial use of harvest machinery also slowed because of several technological hurdles. Mechanical harvesting technology may be adopted by one production area, but not by another because of the unique differences in factors such as climate, soil, terrain, labor, crop mix, market, utilization, variety, and tree or plant type. Lack of uniform maturity and differences in criteria for readiness for harvest between different horticultural crops, and even between species and varieties, made it very complicated to substitute machines for human judgment and dexterity. Selecting only mature product for harvest, as practiced with many hand harvested fruits and vegetables, is still very difficult to achieve with machines.
    Most important of all is the mechanical damage incurred during mechanical harvest, which has been the major deterrent to continued development of mechanical harvesting systems for fresh fruit and vegetable crops. Most currently available mechanical harvesting systems for processed crops often cause produce damage that cannot be tolerated by the fresh market industry. This is in contrast with the mandatory requirements for high post-harvest produce quality which is becoming extremely important as more fresh fruits and vegetables are being exported to distant markets in Asia, Europe and Latin America, and must reach these markets in optimal condition.
    Because of the complexity involved in the introduction of mechanized systems, growers generally use hand labor as long as workers are available when needed, and can be hired at a reasonable cost. Mechanical harvesting is usually adopted only when labor is not available or when appreciable savings will result. Mechanization often also requires a large capital investment and can reduce the growers flexibility to change from one crop to another, or from one market to another. Thus, for many horticultural crops, harvesting has continued to be entirely a hand operation performed by seasonal migrant workers. When local labor sources dwindled, supplementary imported workers have been used under the authority of appropriate Public Laws.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 13, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Liquid said
    Isn’t there a visa called the H-2A with an unlimited cap, meaning farmers can bring in as many people as they need? Why is it not being used? Is it because the farmer actually has to accept responsibility for his employees? I suggest we start making the farmers use whats there, the H-2A visa!
    E
    This is what it would cost an employer on average to petition the government for an H2A visa for an immigrant. Most farmers harvest time is max 2 months.
    They must also pay the immigrant wages. Transportation to and from the border and in most situations in these situations a place to stay and 1 or 2 meals a day.
    Some one already here costs the farmer nothing except wages and maybe a place to stay.
    Our H-2A visa application service includes:
    Complete review of all your personal circumstances.
    Identification of important legal issues that may affect your H-2A visa application.
    Accurate preparation of your H-2A visa application.
    Submission of your H-2A visa application to the proper government agencies.
    Online access to your case status.
    Low Flat Fee: $1,390
    ~~~~
    This from USCIS
    Q : What is an H-1B?
    The H-1B is a nonimmigrant classification used by an alien who will be employed temporarily in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.
    Q : What is a specialty occupation?
    A specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. For example, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts are specialty occupations.

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 13, 2008 at 5:21 am

    By Naomi Zeveloff 06/16/2008 | 2 Comments
    Colorado growers may soon receive the answer to labor shortages that have plagued their farms for the past two years. On June 5, Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law a pilot program — the first of its kind in the nation — to help bring farm workers from Mexico to the United States to harvest crops. But the state’s new law — which has received only a modicum of attention (beyond Rep. Douglas Bruce’s well-publicized incendiary opposition to what he termed “illiterate peasants”) — remains rife with questions, including whether it may flop altogether, leaving Colorado farmers continuing to watch their unpicked crops rot on the vine.
    The project is the brainchild of state Rep. Marsha Looper, a Republican from Calhan in eastern El Paso County. Though Looper ran for office in 2006 in part on an anti-immigrant platform, she changed her tune when constituent farmers raised complaints over the lack of workers on their farms. Labor has become increasingly scarce since the Legislature passed a slate of anti-immigrant bills in 2006. Even legal workers feared coming into the state, and the number of farm laborers dropped dramatically. Last season, Colorado farmers were short 12,000 workers.
    So Looper partnered with state Sen. Abel Tapia, a Pueblo Democrat. The two initially envisioned establishing an outreach office in Mexico, where a state employee would connect Mexican workers to farmers in Colorado. But the lawmakers soon realized that they were stepping in federal immigration territory and had to significantly water down their plan.
    “At one point we were thinking to petition the federal government to allow us to do some of their work,” says Tapia. “But the federal government won’t give waivers to states to deal with foreign countries.”
    Rather than create a new program entirely, Colorado’s new law seeks to work within the confines of the federal H2A visa, an agricultural worker program. Looper did not return phone calls seeking input for this article, but Tapia says the two kept the bill deliberately vague, in order to figure out how best to put Colorado resources to use in navigating the complex federal process. And though the bill contains strong stipulations to prevent workers from staying on in the United States undocumented after their employment ends, it still received wide scrutiny from several anti-immigrant Republicans, including El Paso County’s Bruce, who created a firestorm of criticism when he called migrant laborers “illiterate peasants” on the House floor.
    The bill received criticism from the other side of the aisle as well. The Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition denounced the program as a “solution that does not fit the problem” and called for a “federal fix” to immigration policy rather than an expansion of the H2A visa. The organization also pushed to remove punitive measures against laborers who missed 24 hours of work; in an early version of the bill they would have been reported to the federal immigration police.
    Over the next six months a panel, including representatives from the state departments of Labor and Agriculture, will convene to create the pilot program that will ultimately expedite the federal process and bring 1,000 workers into Colorado in the program’s first year, the 2009 harvesting season. But members of the oversight panel will have their work cut out for them. By many accounts, the federal H2A visa is a frustrating and inefficient program. According to Tapia and others, many Colorado farmers report applying for temporary migrant workers through the visa, only to receive their laborers halfway through the season or not at all. On top of that, the visa application is known to be mystifyingly complex.
    “[The H2A] program–even its authors say it was designed not to run very easily,” says Jim Miller, policy and initiatives director with the state Department of Agriculture. “They didn’t want to create an incentive to get foreign workers when there may be [domestic workers] out there. It was designed to be slow, difficult and expensive.”
    According to Tapia, a farmer who wants to hire foreign workers through the H2A visa program must notify the federal government and go through a background check to ensure that he is not a convicted felon and hasn’t hired undocumented workers in the past. If he is issued a green light, his application is forwarded to the state’s Department of Labor, which takes a look at the unemployment rate in the farmer’s region. If unemployment there is very high, then the application will be denied on the grounds that there should be a substantial number of laborers already in the community. But if the unemployment rate is low, the farmer is directed to get in touch with a private agent in Mexico or elsewhere who will then round up the workers, conduct background checks and health screenings, and transport those individuals to the farm.
    Oftentimes, a farmer’s application process stalls when it comes to dealing with the foreign agent. If the agent doesn’t do a proper background check on each migrant worker, then the federal government can stall the process if even a single employee appears as a security threat. Many agents also demand an exorbitant fee from the farmer and the worker alike.
    “If the farmer has to pay $10,000 to the agent, and a portion of that is passed onto the worker, then the worker is practically spending his whole summer to pay off the debt that he owes to the agent,” says Tapia. “When you get those kind of numbers, you really question the economic benefit of the whole program.”
    Tapia says that the state’s pilot program will likely pick out agents for the farmers to work with, and then “bird dog” those agents to make sure that they aren’t overcharging the farmer or being negligent with the background checks. It will also guide new and inexperienced farmers through the H2A application process, making sure that each application is pristine; even small mistakes or omissions can slow the process by weeks.
    Yet when the program is up and running, no one knows whether it will actually solve the labor shortage, or just make the H2A visa process slightly easier to navigate. “Because the program is a pilot, it is designed to find out what the state can do,” says Miller. “Maybe it won’t do much at all.”
    And in the meantime, farmers and their advocates are growing increasingly antsy to bring more workers to the state. “I’d like to see us take up every step of the process but the homeland security piece,” says Benjamin Waters, the government relations director at the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “In a lack of federal action, the state has to step up.”
    E
    This project they signed into law pays farmers with tax dollars part of the cost to bring workers from Mexico. CIR would eliminate that cost and be a benefit to the American economy.

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 13, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    E says:
    “The fact that you misinterpret my statement at the bottom of the article as one of the advantages, even though you can clearly see it doesent have a number like the rest of the advantages, and the space between the advantages and my statement is wider is
    bewildering.”
    L says:
    I didn’t interpret your statement as an un-numbered advantage, I can clearly read what Publius wrote and what you wrote. My statement still stands: To say that mechanical harvesters “dont work” on your behalf is mere ignorance.
    ~~~~~~
    The CIS article you refer to and the part you have taken, is only a small portion. Like I said you failed to give the SUMMARY, which stated:
    “The number of crops and percentage of crop acreage that are mechanically harvested today have increased somewhat since the late 1970s. Most of these crops are used for processing.”
    Your own posting even makes you look ignorant where in it is states:
    “Because of the complexity involved in the introduction of mechanized systems, growers generally use hand labor as long as workers are available when needed, and can be hired at a reasonable cost. Mechanical harvesting is usually adopted only when labor is not available or when appreciable savings will result. Mechanization often also requires a large capital investment and can reduce the growers flexibility to change from one crop to another, or from one market to another. Thus, for many horticultural crops, harvesting has continued to be entirely a hand operation performed by seasonal migrant workers. When local labor sources dwindled, supplementary imported workers have been used under the authority of appropriate Public Laws.”

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    August 13, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    E says:
    “This is what it would cost an employer on average to petition the government for an H2A visa for an immigrant. Most farmers harvest time is max 2 months.
    They must also pay the immigrant wages. Transportation to and from the border and in most situations in these situations a place to stay and 1 or 2 meals a day.
    Some one already here costs the farmer nothing except wages and maybe a place to stay.”
    L says:
    You are under the assumption that by granting legal status to the “Illegal Immigrants” that they will stay working in the fields when all common sense and past amnesties shows, you are wrong! Agriculture will need workers again, as these newly ‘legalized’ workers will move on to better paying jobs with less intense labor. I will say that the H-2A visa could be structured and/or changed to better suit the time frames of the crops and farmers needs. Again, I have proposed in the past that all “Illegal Immigrants” here in the USA now be given H-2A visas and repatriated at the end of 2 years to allow for others to come and benefit in the same manner. Even the UFW wants to bring in workers on the H-2A visa and not use the “Illegal Immigrants” that are here.
    From my state and city.
    http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/871903.html

  • Avatar
    Evelyn
    August 16, 2008 at 12:33 am

    Nuff said Liquid you have proved your point…. and mine.

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