lividsnails: August 2008 Archives

A Labor Day Attack on Farmworkers

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Amid all the hype of political conventions, analysis of the Republican VP pick and Labor Day celebrations for the rest of the country, the Bush Administration will launch an attack on the nation's farmworkers.

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, at any moment,will announce extensive changes to the H-2A guestworker program, slashing wages and reducing worker protections for hundreds of thousands of our nation's farmworkers. These policy changes deserve our attention.

The H-2A program is a temporary agricultural guestworker program that permits employers to apply for permission to hire foreign labor for jobs lasting ten months or less. To bring in H-2A guestworkers, employers must show that they cannot find U.S. workers who want the jobs. These will be the most far-reaching changes in the laws regulating guestworker programs since 1942. If the changes are finalized, as we expect them to be next week, and take effect, this Administration will have returned us to an era of agricultural labor exploitation that many thought ended over 65 years ago.

What a Labor Day gift to farmworkers!

Bob Edwards' Weekend: Two kinds of border patrol

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This week's edition of Bob Edwards' Weekend on public radio (and XM) is a rebroadcast of a 2006 show about immigration.  The first part is an interview with a border patrol agent and I didn't catch this part when I heard the broadcast over the weekend (ergo my initial post praising the program).  He does a pretty good job of dehumanizing people.  No explanation of who they are, the circumstances that led them to risk their lives to cross the border into the U.S.  Nothing.  They talk like people crossing the border are a plague of bugs that must be processed and controlled.  It'll give you chills.

Then I guess to balance out the show he interviews two Samaritans (that's the name of the group) who patrol the trails leaving out water and other essential supplies for migrants.  One's a doctor.  The other is a photographer.  This is the part of the show that's worth a listen.  The stories they tell of the people they meet out there, the brutal conditions they have to go through...

And unlike the border patrol agent interviewed, the Samaritan was able to put a human face, not only on the migrants but on the opposition as well, in this case, the border patrol agents.  He said he has an appreciation for the agents saying they're only enforcing laws they didn't make. and the laws they have to enforce determine the strategy they have to use.  He said he's met agents who agree with promigrant groups essentially saying, yeah "we're enforcing laws that are forcing people farther and farther out into the more dangerous places.."

He says he "knows from having spoken to a few of the [agents].... in the summer especially a lot of them consider their job as much rescue as arrest and they don't relish finding bodies out in the desert any more than the rest of us do.  They're human beings."

Then he tells a story of a woman and her two sons who got lost in the desert.  She fell ill and the coyote left her behind.  She died and her father spent weeks looking for his daughter's body.  He found three other bodies before he found hers.  This, and no one can tell me we live in a civilized country.  Not with people dying like cattle in the desert.

crimey, it's amazing that anyone could be so cold-hearted to have anything but immense compassion for people forced to migrate in these conditions.

Resources: 

No More Deaths

Humane Borders


Cross posted at Lucky White Girl

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