When you came to America, you did so with the hope of creating a better life for you and your family. Working on a farm is one of the most common ways for migrants to make a living and get a good start in our country. You and other farmworkers in Texas need to understand that, just like natural-born citizens, you have the right to fair and humane treatment by your employers. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for far too many migrant workers across the country.
According to the National Farm Worker Ministry, about six out of every 10 farm workers are undocumented foreigners, most from Mexico. This fact gives unscrupulous employers an opportunity unseen in nearly any other industry to inflict inhumane and unacceptable conditions on their workers. If you or your friends are undocumented, your employer might subject you to the following:
- Being forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions, such as spending all day in the sun without water, shade or protective clothing
- Receiving pay that is a fraction of the minimum wage, or not receiving payment at all despite promises
- Threats of deportation or reporting to immigration authorities if employees speak out against injustices
An egregious example of worker abuse occurred this past May, when the U.S. Department of Labor accused an Arizona farm owner of numerous illegal actions against employees, who were in the country under the H-2A visa program for seasonal workers. Allegedly, the housing provided to the migrants was dangerous, with overcrowded conditions and unsanitary facilities for showering. They also received payment of less than a dollar per bag of produce collected, instead of the required minimum wage.
Our country depends on migrant workers for farm work and labor in many other industries. It would be mutually beneficial for your employers to give you the treatment you deserve. You have the right to a living wage and the same opportunities for advancement as anyone else in the country.