The often brutal existence of seasonal sheepherders

Sheepherders who come to the U.S. on the H-2A work visa often face abuse from their employers, including threatened violence, confiscated passports, and withheld rations, according to farmworker attorneys, government officials, and human-trafficking experts.

“In the United States, we live in enslavement or semi-enslavement,” said Jorge, who worked as a sheepherder in Colorado in 2008.

As Teresa Cotsirilos writes in FERN’s latest investigation, published with High Country News, “Sheepherders are a fixture in the West’s remote corners, working long, lonely hours on the open range. The nation’s small sheep industry relies on immigrant workers who enter the country under the federal H-2A program for seasonal guest workers; at any given time, there are anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 H-2A herders in the U.S.”