FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 8, 2021
Leydy Rangel | firstname.lastname@example.org
Farm Workers and Advocates On Heat Wave Affecting Ag Workers and the Urgency for Citizenship
Here is the recording of the We Are Home press call where advocates and directly impacted people spoke on the importance of a path to citizenship for essential workers like farm workers
Washington, D.C. – On a press call today, farm workers, advocates and medical professionals discussed how the lack of legal status is at the heart of what makes farm workers so vulnerable to extremely hazardous working conditions, abuse and retaliation. Amidst record-breaking temperatures, the importance of access to fresh water, shade, training and breaks become a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, no federal heat standards exist, leaving thousands of farm workers vulnerable to heat illness and death. Farm workers in the U.S. have historically been excluded from many of the rights and benefits that protect workers such as overtime pay and minimum wage, partly because many are immigrants and do not have legal status. Farm workers laboring in the extreme heat shared how a path to citizenship would offer farm workers vital rights and protections.
The UFW Foundation sent a text message survey to Washington state farm workers on June 29th relating to heat illness protections. Some 2,176 self-identified agriculture workers responded to the survey, and we found:
Full survey summary, here.
Teresa Romero, Co-Chair of The We Are Home Campaign and President, United Farm Workers, said: “Farm workers are now imperiled by a perfect storm of three deadly plagues overlapping each other: Extreme summer temperatures—fueled by climate change—increasingly menace agricultural workers. At the same time, field workers and their families continue to be disproportionately afflicted by the coronavirus. And compounding those plights, too many immigrant farm workers live in daily dread of deportation and family separation—afraid to complain about abuse and mistreatment because of their immigration status. Last week, amidst record heat across the Pacific Northwest, the UFW and UFW Foundation began organizing the distribution of drinks and information on avoiding heat stroke to farm workers in the Yakima Valley. But that is not enough. Congress must pass federal heat standards as well as a path to citizenship.”
Bruce Goldstein, President, Farmworker Justice, said: “Farmworker Justice calls on Congress to pass immigration reform that grants undocumented farmworkers and their families a path to immigration status and citizenship. The majority of the nation’s 2.4 million farmworkers are undocumented immigrants. We in the United States have been counting on them to feed us. They have been working through the COVID-19 pandemic, through the heat wave and through many other challenges. They deserve not only our thanks and respect, but they deserve immigration reform that grants them immigration status and a path to citizenship.”
Dr. Roxana Chicas, a registered nurse, researcher and assistant professor at Emory University School of Nursing, said: “At the heart of the plight of farmworkers is the lack of immigration status, which intersects with social and economic factors, climate-related issues, and occupational hazards that help determine health, including economic stability, access to health care, education, labor rights and occupational safety protections. Farmworkers have earned the right to lawfully integrate into American society. A path to citizenship for farmworker is an inclusive social policy that will improve the social determinants of health for immigrant essential workers and stabilize not just our agricultural workforce, but that of the entire U.S. food supply and the health of the country.”
Leticia, a Washington state farm worker laboring through record-breaking temperatures and member of UFW Foundation, said: “I want my people to feel free to demand their rights. To speak up when they or someone is being robbed of them. I fear not making it home to my husband and children. The lack of status can be crippling, but I have faith that the congress will do the right thing.”
Reyna Lopez, Executive Director of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), said: “The threat of deportation makes the American dream an American nightmare, and this is why we need our federal government to not just walk but walk and chew gum at the same time. We need strong standards around extreme heat to protect the workers that feed America. We still have no action from the federal government about providing a pathway to legalization and citizenship for this important workforce. It’s not right and it’s not fair. The time to act is now, the time to act on legalization for farmworkers. They’ve shown up for you in wildfires, through pandemic, even ice storms here in Oregon, now we are asking for you to show up for us too. OSHA rules need to be national and it has to be strong and it has to be soon, in order to adequately protect farmworkers, not only here in Oregon but everywhere across the country, that’s feeling the effects of the extreme heat.”
Alejandra, Texas farm worker laboring through heat and flooding and member of La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), said: “At no point do we stop working. Under the hot sun, in the rain. We don’t have another option but to work to survive. And the bosses keep us working so the harvest isn’t lost. We are also human. If the worker doesn’t work in the fields, there is no produce in the stores. Give us papers so we don’t have to be afraid, so we don’t have to hide.”
We Are Home is a nationwide campaign fighting to ensure that “we the people” includes all of us. Our mission is to transform America’s inhumane immigration system. We must undo the damage of the last four years and build a new immigration system that is fair, humane, functional, and centered in racial justice, and respects all people, regardless of race, religion, or birthplace. And we must immediately enact legislation that creates a roadmap to citizenship for every immigrant who calls this country home.. We Are Home is co-chaired by Community Change/Community Change Action; National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)/Care in Action; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Farm Workers (UFW), and United We Dream.