FJ Blog

Tuesday, 24 March 2015
In the United States, approximately 167 agricultural workers get injured on the job daily from pesticide poisoning, falls, heat stress or other occupational hazards. Constant workplace hazards such as these make agricultural work one of the most dangerous occupations, with 570 deaths occurring in 2011 alone. One would expect farmworkers to be paid fairly for the risks they work under each day, yet one out of four farmworker families fall below the poverty line.
 
This week, from Tuesday, March 24th to Tuesday, March 31st, marks National Farmworker Awareness Week. We pay respect to the 2.4 million farmworkers who labor in our fields to feed not only us Americans but also the world. In 2013, exports of consumer-oriented agricultural products from the United States resulted in $64 billion in trade, increasing two-fold since 1995

During this week, we not only acknowledge this significant contribution of farmworkers but also call for better living and working conditions for farmworkers and their families by working to educate ourselves and raise public awareness. 

 

Because 81% of Americans now live in urban areas, we are not regularly reminded of the labor that goes into producing our food. We cannot simply peer out of their windows and see how our food is grown and harvested for our daily meals. Moreover, the green bell peppers that are neatly packed in clean plastic wrap in the produce aisle do not remind us of the many hours a farmworker spends in the fields for low wages under dangerous conditions. 

Farmworker Justice is partnering with a coalition of farmworker organizations led by the Student Action with Farmworkers to celebrate National Farmworker Awareness Week. Please see our partners’ scheduled events and follow their blogs as they discuss the following pressing issues each day: living conditions, pesticides and health, education, community, living wages, rights, solidarity, and family. You can become further engaged in this week by sharing the image from this post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and also by following us on Facebook or Twitter. Together, we can improve the working and living conditions of farmworkers. La unión hace la fuerza. ¡Si se puede!

 

by Juan Guevara
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Friday, 20 March 2015

The fight over President Obama’s executive actions has continued in the courts and in Congress over the last few weeks. Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) petitioned the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to issue an emergency “stay” lifting the temporary order preventing the Obama Administration from implementing DAPA and expanded DACA. The 5th Circuit has given Texas and the other states until March 23rd to respond. DOJ requested that the court issue a decision on the stay by March 27th; however, the court is not bound by this request. The legal requirements for obtaining such a stay are difficult to meet. DOJ has also filed an appeal of Judge Hanen’s temporary injunction, which is also proceeding in the 5th Circuit, but a decision is not expected for at least a few months. DOJ is requesting first that that the Court of Appeals block the entire order, or alternatively that the 5th Circuit limit the order to Texas – the only State that Judge Hanen found would be harmed by the programs – or at the very least limit the order to the states that have sued the Federal Government and allow the programs to be implemented in those states that welcome them.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia filed a brief in support of the Federal Government’s request for a stay. These states, led by Washington and California, argue that they welcome the executive actions and will be harmed by the judge’s order to delay its implementation. The 14 states (where most of the undocumented population resides) predict that rather than harm their economies, as the states that have sued are claiming, the deferred action programs will bring economic benefits to their states.

Meanwhile, the main case continues in the district court in Texas. On Thursday, Judge Hanen held a hearing on the plaintiff states’ allegations that DOJ misled the judge by claiming that the immigration action hadn’t been implemented. Pursuant to the DAPA and expanded DACA memo, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began granting deferred action and employment authorization for DACA recipients for 3 years on November 24, 2014, a change from the 2 year grants previously issued. DHS ceased issuing 3 year grants of deferred action and work authorization as soon as the Judge’s temporary order blocking the implementation of the DAPA & expanded DACA memo was issued. During that period, about 100,000 DACA applicants were granted deferred action and work authorization for 3 years.

Congressional Hearings

House and Senate committees have been busy holding hearings and markups focused on attacking President Obama’s executive actions and highlighting their anti-immigrant, enforcement-only approach. Of note, the House Judiciary Committee marked up the bill formerly known as the “SAFE Act”, now called the “Michael Davis, Jr. in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act,” HR 1148, which would criminalize people for being undocumented in the US and would undermine community safety by requiring local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law. This month, the House Judiciary Committee also passed the “Legal Workforce Act,” a mandatory E-Verify bill, along with two bills limiting access to due process for asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable immigrant populations.

In the midst of these attacks on immigrants and their contributions to our society and economy, one member of Congress lifted up the positive contributions of farmworkers. During the House Subcommittee on National Security Health Care, Benefits & Administrative Rules hearing on “The Fiscal Costs of the President’s Executive Actions on Immigration,” which generally attacked the President’s executive actions as well as tax credits for low-income working people with US citizen and lawful permanent resident children, the witness from the Heritage Foundation, Robert Rector, revealed the classist undertones of this debate by denigrating working people without a college education. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) responded to Rector’s statements by stating that it may be “easy for people like you and me who wear ties and work in offices to cast aspersions on people who have 10th grade educations,” but farmworkers have died so that we can have cheaper groceries. Lieu spoke passionately about Maria Isabel Jimenez, a 17-year-old farmworker in California, who died of heat stroke saying that she “has given more to American society than you or I ever will.”

Agriculture Groups Oppose Mandatory E-Verify

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition sent a letter to House leaders Tuesday expressing their opposition to Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) “Legal Workforce Act.” Over 140 agriculture groups signed on to the letter that stated that the groups would oppose mandatory E-Verify in agriculture until Congress creates a “solution for agriculture.” Unfortunately, the letter stopped short of calling for a path to citizenship for our nation’s current farmworkers or even a path to permanent legal status. Instead, the letter calls for “work authorization for experienced agricultural workers and a new, flexible guest worker program for long term stability...” Work authorization falls short of a path to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

GAO Report Highlights Abuse of H-2 Workers

A recent GAO report “H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs: Increased Protections Needed for Foreign Workers” highlights the extensive nature of abuses in the H-2A and H-2B programs. The report found that H-2 workers may be required to pay recruitment fees to obtain jobs in the United States and noted that workers who were indebted due to the payment of recruitment fees are more vulnerable to abuses in the workplace as they are less likely to complain. Data in the report also highlighted the rampant gender and age discrimination in the H-2A program, as the vast majority of H-2A workers are men below the age of 40. One important recommendation in the report is that DHS publish the names of recruiters listed on the I-129 applications to USCIS.

The H-2B Program is Running Again

As you may be aware, the Department of Labor (DOL) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily suspended processing of H-2B applications earlier this month due to a court order finding that the DOL has no authority to issue labor certification in the H-2B program. USCIS & DOL announced that they will continue processing applications after DOL filed an unopposed motion for a stay of the court order until April 15th earlier this week. The Department of Homeland Security and DOL also announced that they will jointly promulgate an interim final rule by April 30th to resolve the issue of authority. 

Farmworker Justice honors the contributions of farmworkers to our nation’s agricultural abundance. We will continue to fight for fair immigration reform and equal labor rights that reflects the contributions of farmworkers and their value to our society.

by Megan Horn
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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Although it has been more than three decades since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first reported cases of females with AIDS, women and girls remain disproportionately burdened by the epidemic. Globally, women represent half of adults living with HIV. Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are most vulnerable to infection. According to a 2012 report issued by the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), one young woman acquires HIV every minute worldwide.

Today, March 10th marks the tenth anniversary of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). Established by the Office for Women’s Health, this observance day provides an opportunity to reflect on and raise awareness of how women and girls in the United States are impacted by HIV/AIDS.

In the United States, one in four people living with HIV (PLWH) are female. Black and Latina women remain disparately affected compared to women of other races/ethnicities. According to the CDC, 1 in 32 African American women and 1 in 106 Latino women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. There are a variety of factors that may influence a woman's risk for HIV. These include but are not limited to: biologic susceptibility while engaging in higher risk sexual behaviors, experience of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), poverty, stigma and discrimination, and limited access to high quality, culturally sensitive health care.

Fortunately, incidence of HIV among women and girls is declining in the United States; however, there remains a critical need for sustained collaboration among federal, national and community based organization working to empower women to access HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment. This is embodied in the theme for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, “Share Knowledge. Take Action.”

Farmworker Justice collaborated with our Latino Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative (AAALI) partner organizations, ASPIRA and the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), to promote this important message and awareness day. We reached out to organizations and individuals with whom we work nationally and in the field to collect a series of thoughts and reactions on the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. Responses came from farmworker and Latino serving organizations, staff, our constituents, as well as representatives from our other AAALI partners and their affiliates. From each submission we created a word cloud image of a hand. These were then used to create a larger image incorporating the NWGHAAD logo to symbolize courage and strength, support and empowerment. Please visit our Facebook page to view the images and read each individual message.

Farmworker Justice is proud to continue in our work of promoting HIV knowledge, awareness, and action in farmworker and Latino communities. We encourage all of our partners, supporters and friends to support the movement to end the spread of HIV among women and girls today and every day.
 

by Caitlin Ruppel
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