Brittny SaldañaChris SteeleHS 412December 14, 2017Immigration and FarmworkersThroughout the course we have learned that the people who immigrate into the United States normally get the undesirable jobs, that involve a lot of physical exertion and once the job is over, either they move onto a similar job at a different place, or they experience detention/deportation. Their working conditions are not only bad, but sometimes even violations of human rights, with the most recent cases of slavery – in the farming industry in the United States – as recent as 2008.
These connections with immigration and work in farm fields is nothing new to the United States, with Asian migration occurring in the late 19th century, mainly in the West coast, and their jobs being working the fields (along with other jobs outside my focus). And, regardless of their usefulness to the economy or the social good of the country, there was still anti-Asia sentiment. The sentiment only got worse during the Second World War when politics had momentous consequences for the two largest Asian ethno-racial groups in the United States at the time, Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans. Chinese American were “better” off, because of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, in 1943; jor Japanese Americans it was all mass incarceration in U.S. concentration camps from 1942 to 1945, one of them in Colorado (Ngai, pp. 167-174).
But now who would do the cheaply payed farm labor?Mexicans migrants were in charge of taking care of the agricultural labor, while the young men fought, specifically during the World War II era until 1951. This program resulted from bi-national agreements with the Mexican government as well as the U.S government, that allowed Mexican citizens to migrate into the United States and work as temporary farmworkers. While this stream of accessible labor was originally justified as a necessity to replace the United States citizens that had become involved in World War II, the arrangement was extended for more than twenty years and was filled with exploitative practices.
Employers had maximum control over their workforce, and introduced the piece rate system of compensation and production quotas. All contracts were renewable, but temporary, and the competition for these jobs discouraged labor organizing (Hernandez). The way they were treated was inhumane, and the pay insignificant enough to make a change. To top it all off they were sent back to Mexico when they were no longer needed, some without pay, many with health problems.
Quite a couple, being U.S. nationals.Operation Wetback was an intensely thorough law enforcement campaign created to tackle the rapidly increasing number of illegal border crossings mostly done by Mexican nationals. And as promised by the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, Joseph Swing, during the summer of 1954, 800 Border Patrol of fleers swept through the southwestern area of the United States performing a series of raids, road blocks, and mass deportations. By the end of the year, Attorney General Herbert Brownell was able to announce that the summer campaign had been a success by contributing to the apprehension, and deportation of over one million persons, mostly Mexican nationals, during 1954.
The cross-border collaboration expanded the possibilities of migration control along the U.S.-Mexico border. Working towards the common goal of exploiting the lethality of the border landscape was part of the creation of a new era of immigration law enforcement in which U.S. and Mexican officers worked together to deter, prevent, discourage, and punish, unsanctioned border crossings by Mexican nationals.
Still, this did not discourage undocumented Mexican immigration, in the contrary, it seemed to grow despite the dangers of illicit border crossings and interior deportations. The number of apprehensions made by the U.S. Border Patrol in the Mexican border region rose from over 279 thousand in 1949 to 459,289 in 1950 and 501,713 by 1951. Poverty south of the border and higher wages in comparison in the north of the border, sustained a constant flow of undocumented Mexican immigration. But, these statistics do not represent a clear reflection of the overall volume of undocumented immigration because they do not indicate the rising number of repeat offenders, persons who had previously been deported, being apprehended by the Border Patrol. By the late 1940s, on average, one third of all apprehensions were of repeat offenders. Not to mention, the statistics do not reveal the innovations occurring within U.
S. Border Patrol practice that enhanced their capacity to apprehend and deport an even larger numbers of deportees.Police practice is usually defined as a site of state violence which is limited by the boundaries of the nation state, yet, the cross-border policing of migrants linked the distinct territories of U.
S. and Mexican police authority. Instead of being a major law enforcement campaign, the summer of 1954 can be better summarized as a massive publicity campaign for what had happened the year before, and a public claiming of migration control by the U. S.
government despite the critical contributions and participation of the Mexican government (Hernandez).Regardless of how many efforts were put into preventing, and/or completely eliminating illegal crossing into the U.S. it was still happening. And, the jobs available for undocumented immigrants, were still the ones from before, farmwork, jobs who most people who are U.
S. nationals would not get for the very reason that it is underpaid work for the amount of labor done. Or, with the case of the H2A visa, which is a temporary work visa for foreign agricultural workers with an offer for seasonal agricultural work in the U.S., they are allowed in to work legally, but this legally does very little to make the situation any more fair.
The farmworker population in the United States is hard to count, because of the fluctuating needs of the agricultural industry every season, plus the mobility and legal status of farmworkers. Some experts estimate that every year between three and five million people leave their homes in some part of Latin America to work with agricultural crops in the U.S. This population is predominantly of Mexican origin; in 2001-2002, 75% were born in Mexico. In general, farmworkers suffer from poor health, including a higher prevalence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma; this is all due to the conditions of their work. Many adverse health problems that farmworker families suffer from are linked directly to their socioeconomic status.
Poverty forces many farmworkers to live in substandard, overcrowded, and unsanitary housing, sometimes provided by their employer, which can contribute to a number of health outcomes such as respiratory illnesses, infectious diseases, and injury. Migrant farmworkers do not have access to adequate health care because they lack insurance, time off from work, adequate financial resources, ability to communicate in English, and health care facilities in their rural areas (Flocks). This is part of a system which has been in place for many years, since the beginning of immigration into the U.
S., and abuse of other human beings for cheap labor. Their efficiency is what matters most over their health and well being. Some farm owners include temporary worker programs and the use of labor contractors also known as “crewleaders”. Temporary worker programs have been a staple of the agricultural industry since the 1940s, when the Bracero program was initiated. Temporary worker programs have recently gained popularity again among employers concerned about tightening immigration controls that could limit their access to cheap labor. As with the Bracero program, the current programs benefit employers by ensuring a stream of available, documented workers, but they also allow those employers to maintain maximum control over their workforce, while simultaneously discouraging organizing or expression of workers’ rights (Hernandez).Employers hire crewleaders to recruit, manage, pay, and fire farmworkers.
The practice of using crewleaders is indicative of an unorganized, irregular, and relatively powerless workforce, and it has increased with the rise of restrictions imposed on immigration policies that pressure employers to avoid hiring undocumented workers. The practice allows employers to be separate in multiple layers from the workers, shifting the responsibility for occupational safety onto the crewleaders, and avoid liability for regulatory violations involving matters such as training, injuries, and wage theft. It also has the potential of being highly exploitative, and it has been, and even dangerous for workers. Just in the past fifteen years, for example, prosecutors have brought numerous cases in Florida against unscrupulous crewleaders charged with crimes including extortion, kidnapping, illegal use of firearms, involuntary servitude, smuggling, and peonage against members of their crews. Or as I mentioned in the introduction, even the most recent case of slavery, when four Immokalee crewleaders were sentenced in federal court for enslaving and brutalizing nine migrant workers in 2008; one of the workers being chained at their feet to a pole (Sen. Bernie Sanders).Works CitedFlocks, Joan D. “The Environmental and Social Injustice of Farmworker Pesticide Exposure.
” Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy, vol. 19, no. 2, Spring2012, pp. 255-282. EBSCOhost, dml.regis.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.
com/login.aspx?direct=true=bth=74447221=ehost-live=site.Hernández, Kelly Lytle. “The Crimes and Consequences of Illegal Immigration: A Cross-BorderExamination of Operation Wetback, 1943 to 1954.” Western Historical Quarterly, vol.
37, no. 4, Winter2006, pp. 421-444. EBSCOhost, dml.regis.edu/login?url=http://search.
ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true=ahl=23723075=ehost-live=site.Lin Hsu, M. (2013). online Wesscholar.wesleyan.
edu. Available at: http://wesscholar.wesleyan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2002=etd_hon_theses Accessed 14 Dec.
2017.Ngai, M. (2014). Impossible subjects. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
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Bernie Sanders. (2008). Immokalee family sentenced for slavery; Each Navarrete boss gets 12 years in prison (Ft. Myers News-Press). online Available at: https://www.sanders.
senate.gov/newsroom/must-read/immokalee-family-sentenced-for-slavery-each-navarrete-boss-gets-12-years-in-prison-ft-myers-news-press Accessed 14 Dec. 2017.