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In the United States, foreign agricultural workers in the midst of exploitation and epidemics

Exploited, forced into very difficult and stressful working conditions, forced into dangerous housing, without assistance and adequate protection from the corona virus. This is a dramatic situation Guest farm workers, Foreign workers coming to the United States on temporary or seasonal employment contracts H-2A Visa Scheme.

Epidemiology has been added to make their condition worse in the past year Govit-19, The world’s first country in the number of infections and victims due to the virus.

Is to investigate and condemn the abuse of foreign workers in American rural areasAuckland Company, An independent research center (based in Auckland, California) – established in 2004 Anuradha Mittal, Indian activist and expert on human rights, development, environment and agriculture – involved in investigations and research Land rights, The unjust exploitation of natural resources, the impact and promotion of climate change Agro-environmental solutions Ecological sustainability and compatibility with the development of small farming communities.

Dignity or exploitation? Auckland Company Answers

The California Research Center recently released this report David Bacon, “Dignity or Exploitation – What’s the Future for Farm Worker Families in the United States?”.

The document analyzes in detail the progress of the H-2A program with its effects over the period of epidemics, ReasonsHigh number of corona virus infections, Describes some particularly important situations through the voices of many workers.

Foreign workers in American agriculture
A worker in a paddy field – Photo: via Pixie

Story: US-Mexico Bilateral Agreements on Seasonal and Temporary Workers

H-2A Project – Explains the Report – Son of the former Program Frasero (In Spanish labor), born in a series Bilateral agreements between the United States and Mexico And operated from 1942 to 1964. During those twenty years, the period of World War II and the ensuing Cold War were signed 4.6 million job contracts This allowed many Mexicans to legally work seasonally and temporarily within the United States, especially in Texas and California.

“Frasero” confirmed himself America’s Largest Employment Contract Program, At a time when American workers are tired and abandoning low-wage agriculture in order to return to the most lucrative wage sector of the arms industry.

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H-2A, a program developed under Obama and Trump

The H-2A visa, approved by Congress in 1986, is inherited and continued in many ways. Vulnerable conditionsIn Workers Under the previous scheme. It was born to deliver Labor for a certain period of time This is a completely different path from immigration in some sectors where domestic workers are not enough.

For decades, to this day, there is a need for human resourcesIndustrial agriculture American has always increased under Republican and Democratic leaders, this one Steady increase in the number of contracts With the H-2A visa (the program does not set limits on the number of temporary or seasonal immigrants): we have passed the 10,000 visas issued in 1992 più 250 thousand in 2020. The project has grown a lot under the management of Barack Obama e Donald Trump. In particular, the latter preferred H-2A visas, the report highlights.

Exploitation of agricultural workers
Source: via Pixie

Foreign Farm Workers Today: They Can Be Deported from the United States If They Get Sick

But the breadth of the agricultural program was not matched by the improvement of working conditions. Most foreign workers are coming today From Mexico and Central America.

The report explains that the employer must be notified Job and salary type, Provide shelter and transportation.

The worker receives a contract of less than one year, after which he or she must leave the country. If he gets sick he can be sent back At home. If you protest, misbehave or go on strike legally CanAll twelve Should be removed and expelled.

Contractors like major employers today Washington Farm Workers Union (Wafla) and The North Carolina Farmers Association. The report collected numerous reports and interviews of workers reporting incidents Racism And discrimination, the quality of food and shelter.

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“The H-2A program created a forced labor system”

The author of the report, David Bacon, explains:

“The H-2A program has created a forced labor system that works in brutal and often illegal conditions. Basically, not far from slavery. Most of these workers are already in debt in the United States. . “

The report illustrates how Negative competition Between guest workers and domestic workers – created by the H-2A project – the result is exciting Housing crisis For agricultural workers andReducing wages In the face of increasing workload – the speed at which it is needed – it is eroding the bargaining power of all agricultural workers in the United States.

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Exploitation of agricultural workers: Seasonal foreign workers during epidemics

During infections, The conditions of the workers are also known Significantly worsens. The report states: “The corona virus crisis has only added to the serious risk of inequality and exclusion.”

Although farm workers are officially defined Essential workers, This notice does not advance their rights, does not provide protection from the virus, does not guarantee, does not lead to the definition of real fair pay.

“Families of agricultural workers are the poorest in the United States, a Average annual income, 500 17,500 to $ 20,000, Below the poverty line ”. To say that agricultural work is necessary does not mean that the government does not prevent farm work during epidemics and does not prohibit the employment of farmers and workers.

Exploitation of immigrants in American camps
Photo: via Pixie

Migrants in the corona virus risk fields

Suffering and frustration force people to work, despite the risk of reducing the virus. Forced Although it cannot be defined as forced labor, it does Non There is Not even free work“Workers have no choice but to take risks. For many families, choosing not to work means no more income, money to pay rent and the homeless, starving.

According to the analyst Ed Cassam, Although only H-2A project workers are represented 10% workers Total Agriculture in the United States, The Risk of infection from Govt Among these workers That’s too much Due to the housing conditions provided by the employers, they usually boil over Dangerous apartments where workers all live and sleep together, They shared small spaces, bathrooms, and kitchens. At work, workers need social distance, which makes it almost impossible to respect the conditions in which they find themselves.

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Farm workers without protection, guarantees and health insurance

In this situation, it is not clear how a worker can go into isolation and isolation if he or she becomes infected. “For employers There is currently no need to provide health insurance For H-2A workers “.

If a guest farm gets sick And stop working to comply with visa requirements, He must leave the country immediately. As a result, the worker returns to Mexico with more money, guarantees and a higher risk of exposing his entire family and community to the epidemic. Kovid is widely reported among guest workers across the country, the report said.

Hope for more decent conditions for migrant workers

With the presidency Joe Biden All of this is expected to change, and the new administration will create a new, more equal and more humane path for foreign workers in the United States.

On the first day of his decree, the new president made an announcement Reform plan It will allow 11 million immigrants without a residence permit Apply for regulation And even to listen Citizenship, Securing family relationships and reunions first.

Oakland Institute Comment The statement said: “Recovering the system on the basis of family will and suspending or restricting the H-2A program are two of the most important decisions facing the new administration regarding the direction of U.S. immigration policy.”