Though those who live farther away from the muddy melting snow of Southern New England, may not have caught wind of the migrant rights struggle that has been playing out between farms and courthouses around the region, it’s worth everyone’s attention.
Since the ICE arrest and detention of farmworkers and Migrant Justice leaders Jose Enrique “Kike” Balcazar Sanchez and Zully Palacios Rodriguez on March 16, hundreds of people have gathered aroundVermont and in Boston to demand the young activists release. Migrant Justice is a Vermont-based organization that organizes three regional migrant worker communities to advocate for human rights and economic justice. Especially considering some of the anecdotes in this excellent piece by LatinoUSA.org on their case, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which immigration officials are not intentionally targeting human rights leaders for deportation.
Both are in their early twenties, neither with any prior arrests, and they were on their way home from the Migrant Justice center when they were stopped. Balcazar, as LatinoUSA reports, “is an active community organizer in Vermont, and served on Vermont attorney general T.J. Donovan’s Immigrant Task Force, which was created in January as a response to President Trump’s immigration executive orders.”
We don’t often see mainstream media outlets report on the often invisible farm workers that hold up so much of American agriculture– let alone do in depth and humanizing interviews with them. So, in case you missed it, we wanted to bring your attention to a series created by Dan Charles for NPR’s The Salt in which Charles interviews the largely-Hispanic migrant immigrant workers on sweet potato, apple, orange, strawberry, and blueberry farms. Even for those of us who have worked on smaller-scale farms, a look into the lives of workers on these gigantic combines is both fascinating and critical. We can’t recommend a listen more highly.
You can read Charles’s summary of his findings here and follow his links to listen to each piece individually.
Walking the 200 miles from Long Island to Albany, protesters stopped at City Hall in New York City last Saturday chanting si se puede. According to Democracy Now!, the protesters are walking in support of the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (more about this from the ACLU), asking that farm workers have the right to collective bargaining, an optional day off every week, and overtime pay– rights people in virtually every other industry in the US take for granted. The walkers are led by Rural and Migrant Minstry, a NY-based nonprofit that supports rural and migrant communities in the state.
“I would like to say, each time you are eating, or each time you have something in your hands that you are going to eat, remember us, who do not have the rights that other workers have. And if you can, support us. We are going to be marching for another week and a few days. If you see us, it would be good if you support us by walking with us, maybe a couple of hours, one hour, for a day if you can. That would be very good.”