FJ Blog

Monday, 21 April 2014

On April 7-9th, the Women’s Fast for Families, organized by We Belong Together, SEIU and FIRM, held a 48-hour fast on the National Mall. Valentina Stackl volunteered on behalf of Farmworker Justice and fasted for farmworkers and their families. Valentina writes that over 100 women fasted “to feed the courage of elected officials to pass fair and just immigration reform and to stop the deportations.” Her full blog is available here. Meanwhile, several individuals with family members in detention are currently fasting in front of the White House.

House Democrats continue their efforts to get 218 signatures on a discharge petition to force a House floor vote on H.R. 15, the comprehensive immigration reform bill which includes the agricultural stakeholder agreement. They still need 27 more members to reach their target. It remains unlikely that they get Republican members to sign-on, but they use the petition as a rallying tool to call Republicans who support reform to action. 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told donors that he is “hellbent” on passing immigration reform this year, but also said that he does not trust President Obama enough to reach a compromise. 

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) recently said that Republicans must act on immigration reform before the August recess or Obama will act on his own in response to the mounting pressure from advocates to stop the deportations. Diaz-Balart also claimed that immigration reform is not dead and that he has legislative language that would legalize undocumented immigrants ready to go should the House decide to move forward on reform. He argues that once the President acts, the House would not likely act this year and legislation is not likely to be addressed until there is a new President. (The conventional wisdom is that immigration reform is unlikely during the Republican Presidential primary in 2015 and the Presidential elections in 2016. Therefore, if Republicans want to improve their image with the Latino community, the House should act soon.) Of course, no one can predict the future. 

If President Obama provides some sort of administrative relief for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, as he should, it would still be temporary and an incomplete answer. Only Congress can create a path to immigration status and citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Congress is on recess until April 28,th and members are in their home districts. 

An informative article in takepart discusses Idaho’s new law that “allows” Idaho prisoners to do farm work, noting its resemblance to slavery and chain gangs. The legislation was proposed as a solution to a claimed farm labor shortage created by Idaho’s anti-immigrant state enforcement law, increased immigration enforcement and a tightening of the border. However, the legislation is focused on providing cheap labor for growers, not creating a solution for farmworkers or prisoners.

The Farmworker Justice Award Reception on May 7 in Washington, D.C. will honor two people who are committed to helping farmworkers win immigration reform: Rep. Judy Chu of California and Guadalupe Gamboa, Senior Program Officer at Oxfam America and a former migrant farmworker, labor organizer and farmworker attorney. Your support for the award reception helps farmworkers advocate for immigration reform. 

by Megan Horn
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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Today's guest blogger is Farmworker Justice volunteer Valentina Stackl.

Since International Women’s Day, on March 8th, over 1600 women held 24-hours fasts across 35 states as well as in Washington DC and Mexico City. The month long action culminated with a 48-hour fast with over 100 women on the National Mall. I was one of those women.

Why did we fast? We went without food to feed the courage of elected officials to pass fair and just immigration reform and to stop the deportations.

The event was hosted by We Belong Together, which is an initiative of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. It was also a part of Fast for Families, a group that hosted an event at the end of 2013 in which core fasters fasted for comprehensive immigration reform for over 22 days on the national mall. Fast for Families also finished their “Fast for Families Across America” bus tour, which lasted seven weeks and reached more than 90 Congressional districts, just as we women finished our fast on the mall.

The over 100 women came from all over the country and were both immigrant and native-born. The youngest was a teenager, the oldest in her 70s. We came from women’s rights organizations; immigrant rights groups, faith, labor and community organizations. The group included farmworker women and domestic workers. We were all united by the desire to send a message for fair immigration reform and an end to the suffering caused by deportations. 

I fasted on behalf of Farmworker Justice because immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship is critically important to farmworkers and our nation’s food security.

Over 50% of the roughly 2 million farmworkers are undocumented. The current immigration system harms farmworkers, farmers and the nation. Farmworkers work extremely hard at low wages in a dangerous occupation to perform an essential role cultivating and harvesting the food for our tables. But when the majority of workers lack legal status, most farmworkers are too fearful of deportation or being fired to challenge wage theft, dangerous conditions or other workplace violations.

Congress must enact legislation that reforms our broken immigration system and creates an accessible roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans, including farmworkers and their families.

After almost 48 hours of fasting someone asked the crowd “are you hungry?” and without hesitation the women replied “hungry for justice!” While our fast is over, the fight continues until we see a fair and humane immigration system for America’s immigrants.


by Valentina Stackl
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Friday, 11 April 2014

For the first time in decades, the current generation isn’t as healthy as the one that came before.” The theme for day five of National Public Health Week is “Be the Healthiest Nation in One Generation” and is dedicated to turning around the declining trend in health faced by Americans today. To address this trend, it’s important that we understand the barriers to good health faced by all people in the United States. At Farmworker Justice, we spend a lot of time contemplating migration as a social determinant of health. Specifically, we discuss the roadblocks that affect good health and quality of life and we think about ways to lift those roadblocks, either through advocating for policy change or through health promotion and education projects.

In terms of farmworkers, migration from their home to the U.S. has a lot to do with their health. Just a few factors related to migration that affect farmworkers include poverty, language, discrimination, and national policies.

Most farmworkers live at or below the poverty line. Health outcomes of people who live near the poverty line are worse than for those who enjoy higher incomes.
Eighty-one percent of farmworkers speak Spanish but immediately after arriving in the U.S. they need to navigate everything from grocery stores, public schools, housing, and health clinics almost entirely in English.
• Discrimination, both overt acts of discrimination and microagressions (every day, more subtle forms of discrimination), is associated with increased anxiety, anger, depression, and stress levels.
• Policy can be discriminatory when it is does not provide protections to workers equitably across professions. For example, many states do not require agricultural employers to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for farmworkers, even though agriculture is ranked among the most dangerous occupations by the U.S. Department of Labor.
• Policies that don’t seem to be about health, like immigration policy, can actually have a great impact on the health and wellbeing of our community members. For example, children who hear about deportations may constantly fear the separation of their families and people who cannot obtain driver’s licenses may avoid driving to a clinic.

Not only do poverty, language barriers, discrimination, and policy serve as enormous sources of stress, but they also stand in the way of accessing and receiving appropriate medical and mental health services. In addition, sixty-four percent of farmworkers are uninsured, so even when they do seek care, paying for it presents another barrier.

To reverse the decline in the nation’s health outcomes, it is important to address the barriers, social inequalities, and injustices that contribute to the decline. We must also recognize that the health of each individual is affected by the overall health of our communities so working toward better health outcomes for the entire community will create better health for each individual.

by Chelly Richards
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