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Photo: David Sommerstein
Photo: David Sommerstein

Farmers ratchet up pressure for immigration reform

Prospects for comprehensive immigration reform are growing slim as Congress is running out of working days in 2013.

That's a huge concern for dairy farmers. Several thousand undocumented Latino immigrants are estimated to work on dairy farms in New York and Vermont. Farmers say they can't find local people to milk the cows reliably.  Go to full article
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein

Dairy farmers and Hispanic workers in legal limbo

The U.S. Senate passed its version of immigration reform Thursday. But the bill's future in the House is highly uncertain. Many conservatives oppose citizenship for those who are in the country illegally.

Others want to take up immigration reform piece by piece, rather than attempt a comprehensive bill like the Senate's.

With Congress wrestling with a new strategy for immigration policy, we thought it would be a good time to review the legal situation on many New York and Vermont dairy farms.

Several thousand undocumented immigrants, mostly Latino, work on those farms. They pay social security and other federal taxes because they give their employers false social security numbers when they're hired.

Farmers are not required to prove their workers are legal. In fact, they can be sued for discrimination if they challenge them.

In 2006, David Sommerstein explored this Catch-22. Here's a part of that story.  Go to full article
H2A workers on a North Country Farm. Photo: David Sommerstein

Will immigration reform ease NY's farm labor shortage?

As lawmakers in Washington debate the immigration reform bill released last month, farmers in New York State are hoping to find enough workers to fully staff their operations.

The Senate Judiciary Committee spent a day last week amending the 844-page bill, legislation that includes changes to guest worker programs. The changes may be good news for New York farmers.  Go to full article
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein

Undocumented farmworkers weigh benefits against risks

New York's farms employ about 60,000 people and no one knows how many of those workers are here illegally. According to one estimate, 70 percent of the state's agricultural...  Go to full article
McKnight Farm, Montpelier, Vermont. Photo: Sarah Harris

Vermont grants driver's licenses to migrant workers

Dairy farms in Vermont and northern New York have faced a major labor shortage, which means that migrant laborers from Mexico and Guatemala are now milking many of the...  Go to full article

VT Senate considers driver's licenses for migrant workers

A bill in the Vermont Senate would allow migrant farm workers access to driver's licenses.

Vermont is home to approximately 1500 migrant workers - many of whom...  Go to full article
Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms.

Owens seeks dairy guest worker program

Yesterday, President Obama took his pitch to overall the nation's immigration laws to the Mexican border. In El Paso, Obama said he's exceeded Republican demands for...  Go to full article
Lowville veterinarian Mark Thomas at the school in Malacapetec.

Farm to Farm, Family to Family, part 3: the view from Lewis County

This week, we've been hearing the stories of a group of New York dairy farmers. In January, they traveled to a tiny mountain town in Mexico, where many of their milkers and...  Go to full article
Above: Older houses in Malacatepec, below: new house built with wages earned on North Country dairy farms

Farm to Farm, Family to Family, pt. 2: the cycle of migration

As Congress continues to craft ways to control immigration into the United States, the reality is that the allure of good paying jobs and a chance to improve one's conditions...  Go to full article
How many kids in the school have family working in the US?

Farm to Farm, Family to Family, part 1: North Country farmers go to Mexico

In January, David Sommerstein traveled with a group of New York dairy farmers on a sort of reverse migration. They went to a tiny mountain town in Veracruz, Mexico, called...  Go to full article

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