It’s 1 a.m. and the stars are out as hundreds of people shuffle slowly along the wall that forms the border with the U.S. in the small Mexican city of San Luis Río Colorado, Esther Honig reports in FERN's latest story produced with the Nation magazine. In heavy boots and wide-brimmed straw hats, almost everyone here is headed to work in the vegetable fields of Yuma County, Arizona. Bundled against the frigid November air in puffy coats and fleece blankets, they carry thermoses of hot coffee and mini coolers packed with breakfast and lunch, often small, tightly rolled meat burritos. The wait to get through the small port of entry averages two hours but on some days can take as many as four. (No paywall)
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said she will work with fellow senators to give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A visa system for agricultural guestworkers. "It's time to give farmers the help they need and protect the essential workers who work hard to put food on our tables," said Feinstein, a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House will vote on two popular proposals for immigration reform this week, offering a pathway to citizenship for so-called Dreamers and offering legal status to undocumented farmworkers, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The ag labor bill would also streamline the H-2A visa for guestworkers.
The pandemic has exacerbated food insecurity for households across the country, but undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families have faced unique challenges. That’s in part because they’ve been excluded from the momentary salve of government relief efforts, from stimulus checks to enhanced unemployment benefits. But it also stems from the Trump administration’s hostile immigration policies and rhetoric — and notably the president’s changes to the “public charge” rule, which has led many to shy away even from benefits for which they are eligible. (No paywall)
In the last several weeks, health workers in Immokalee, Florida, the nation’s tomato-growing capital, have detected an alarming spike in Covid-19 cases: an average of 24 new positives a day, reports Elizabeth Royte in FERN's latest story. (No paywall)
In the coming weeks and months, tens of thousands of migrant farmworkers will arrive in agricultural centers across the nation, where they will live and work in conditions that are prime for a coronavirus outbreak. Yet despite the fact that these are the men and women Americans depend on to plant, tend, and harvest their food, "these workers and their advocates say that many of the farmers who employ them have provided virtually no information on how they can protect themselves, their co-workers, and their families from the coronavirus — creating the potential for a massive public-health and food-security crisis."(No paywall)
The global pandemic feels distant to 31-year-old Manuel Alejandro Lopez Delgado in his town of some 4,000 people in the state of Sinaloa, along the Gulf of California. There’s been just one confirmed case of coronavirus in the state, and that was four hours away, in the city of Culiacan. But in the next two weeks, Lopez, along with three other workers from his town, will be traveling to the U.S. to work in Washington State. The three-day bus journey will take them to the epicenter of the Covid-19 crisis in America.(No paywall)
From wildfires and drought to lost work days due to soaring temperatures, the changing climate is fast becoming another issue that farmworkers must contend with. One way they're doing that is by organizing, according to FERN's latest story, published with The Nation.(No paywall)
In the heart of Iowa's rural 4th district, Democratic hopeful J.D. Scholten is making a bid for conservative Republican Steve King's congressional seat, appealing to farmer interests to win support for his campaign, according to FERN's latest story, by Brian Barth, produced in collaboration with Mother Jones. (No paywall)
As farmworkers become harder to find, California growers are providing better pay and benefits, attracting some U.S.-born workers. Still, experts say, mechanization will be the long-term answer.