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News stories tagged with "hispanic"

Hispanic men and women - some of them quite young - provide labor illegally on many dairy farms. Photo: David Sommerstein
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
Juan Carlos (left) lives in a converted farm office in the barn of this dairy farm. He and Freddy want to be able to go home and come back to work on dairy farms here. Photo: David Sommerstein
Juan Carlos (left) lives in a converted farm office in the barn of this dairy farm. He and Freddy want to be able to go home and come back to work on dairy farms here. Photo: David Sommerstein

What undocumented dairy workers think of immigration reform

Dairy farmers - and their workers - have a lot at stake in the immigration debate underway in Washington.

A survey by Cornell University found that 2,600 Spanish-speaking people work on New York dairy farms. Of them, two thirds or more are here illegally. That's in part because there's no visa program for the kind of year-round workers dairy farms need.

The Senate's reform plan offers dairy farms new options for a legal supply of immigrant labor.

Undocumented Latino workers are scattered on bunches of dairy farms in the North Country. David Sommerstein spoke with some of them to see what they think of immigration reform.  Go to full article
People like Evaristo would become much more visible members of North Country communities if immigration reform passes. Photo: David Sommerstein.
People like Evaristo would become much more visible members of North Country communities if immigration reform passes. Photo: David Sommerstein.

How would legal immigration reshape the North Country?

Congress remains deeply divided over the shape of immigration reform. A split within the House GOP caucus endangers any kind of new legislation.

But let's imagine for a moment that the several thousand Latinos working on dairy farms in New York and Vermont could get legal working papers.

How would that change the region's rural communities?

Tom Maloney of Cornell University has been talking with dairy farmers and Latino dairy workers about this for years. He told David Sommerstein farmers are ready to guide their undocumented workers towards legal status.  Go to full article
The complaint reflects, at least in a reading of it, that the defendant was aware that they were illegal aliens working on the farm.

Farmer arrested for employing illegal immigrants

Federal agents raided a Jefferson County dairy farm yesterday and arrested the farmer, a week after one of his Hispanic employees died in an apparent accident. 47 year-old John Barney of Adams is charged with harboring illegal immigrants. Todd Moe reports.  Go to full article

Mexican farmworker doc debuts in Burlington

Last December, Jose Obeth Santiz Cruz of Mexico was killed when his shirt got caught in a machine on a Vermont dairy farm. The incident renewed concerns over Hispanic farmworkers in the dairy industry who are in this country illegally. An estimated 1500 work on dairy farms in Vermont. Hundreds more work in northern New York. A farmworkers' rights group helped return Santiz Cruz' remains to his family in Chiapas, Mexico. The Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project made a documentary about their journey. It's called "Silenced Voices" and debuts tonight at 7 at the Black Box Theater in Burlington. Brendan O'Neill teaches English to Hispanic farmworkers in Vermont. He co-directed the documentary and spoke with David Sommerstein.  Go to full article
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand "evolves" for bigger stage

Coming off a whirlwind tour of New York State, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is scrambling to get settled in to her new job. Her spokeswoman, Rachel Mceneny, says a transition that usually takes three months is happening on the fly. Senator Gillibrand made sure to sit down with Hispanic lawmakers in New York City over the weekend. They were outraged by her conservative stances on immigration when she was Congresswoman. Gillibrand has already done an about-face on some of those issues. Immigrant groups are cautiously optimistic. Conservatives in her old district are taking a wait-and-see attitude. David Sommerstein reports.  Go to full article
Childstock farms relies on immigrant labor, and the H2A program, to harvest its greens.
Childstock farms relies on immigrant labor, and the H2A program, to harvest its greens.

Mexican farmworkers on the right side of the law

With the presidential race and the financial crisis, the issue of immigration has faded from the headlines. But the problem hasn't gone away. Farmers rely on foreign laborers to harvest their crops and milk their cows. Millions work on farms illegally. We've reported extensively on Mexicans and Central Americans working on North Country dairy farms without legal papers. Today we look at a federal program that allows farmers to hire foreign labor legally. Orchards in the Champlain Valley have hired foreign pickers for years. But dairy farms aren't eligible, at least, not yet. So in the North Country, just one crop farm uses the program. David Sommerstein reports from Childstock Farms in Franklin County.  Go to full article

ESL classes in demand in North Country

Literacy of Northern New York is seeking volunteers to teach English as a second language classes. The not-for-profit is trying to keep up with a growing number of military and academic spouses and farmworkers who want to learn English in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Deborah Tate runs the organization's ESL program. She told David Sommerstein the students come from all over the world.

You can volunteer to be a tutor by calling 782-4270 in Jefferson and Lewis counties, and 265-0194 in St. Lawrence county.  Go to full article

Ag's shifting agenda in New York

Agriculture is one of New York's biggest industries, generating more than $3 billion annually. Once a reliable mix of dairy, orchards, and row crops, farming in New York is changing fast, with new opportunities and challenges. The state is building a wholesale market in New York City to connect downstate consumers with Upstate farms. A new office of organic produce is trying to help farmers' meet the growing demand for healthy, locally-grown food. And New York is investing in biofuel research. Meanwhile, farmers have been thrust into the middle of the illegal immigration debate, fearing raids on their increasingly Hispanic workforce. A plan to ban open burning statewide would force farmers to find new ways to throw out their bale wraps and other plastics. David Sommerstein sat down recently with Agriculture Commissioner Pat Hooker to look at the farm agenda for 2008. Hooker came to state government last year after more than a decade representing the industry as the New York Farm Bureau's policy director. He says he's very excited about the promise of alternative energies and biofuels for farmers...  Go to full article

State to count Hispanic farmworkers

The state agriculture department is trying to figure out how many Hispanic immigrants work on New York farms. The agency wants to persuade the federal government to act on immigration issues. David Sommerstein reports.  Go to full article

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