FJ Blog

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Day 5 of National Farmworker Awareness Week focuses on farmworker health.  Farmworker Justice has been working to protect  farmworkers' access to health care through close monitoring of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the impacts any changes would have for farmworkers. 

Current efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act threaten to roll back important gains in health insurance coverage achieved for farmworkers and their families. By increasing costs for young, rural, low-income individuals, the failed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would have substantially reduced access to health insurance for farmworkers and their families.

The AHCA’s provisions, including eliminating the employer mandate, modifying the eligibility for tax credits, ending Medicaid expansion, and modifying the structure of Medicaid, would have left many farmworkers with higher costs and fewer options for health insurance. Lawfully present farmworkers, especially H-2A workers, would have lost their access to affordable health insurance due to the bill’s proposed changes in immigrant eligibility for tax credits. The AHCA proposed restricting eligibility for tax credits to individuals who met the “qualified alien” definition under the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA).

The ACA has provided farmworkers and their families a level of access to health insurance coverage that was previously unattainable.  While the ACA can be improved, efforts to eliminate provisions such as income-based subsidies, immigrant eligibility, Essential Health Benefits, and Medicaid expansion, will only impede access to health care to farmworker families. Farmworkers need greater, not reduced access to affordable health care.

by Matt Clark
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Sunday, 26 March 2017

A majority of the nation’s 2.5 million farmworkers are undocumented immigrants. Recent and proposed changes in immigration policy are having a significant impact on farmworkers’ daily lives and livelihoods, as well as on the industries in which they work.

In the past two months, there have been a series of actions by the new administration which greatly broaden the scope of those who are considered a priority for immigration enforcement. Under recently issued executive orders, any undocumented immigrants may be subject to immigration arrest, detention, and removal from the U.S.; regardless of how long they have been in the country or whether or not they have committed any crimes. Recent government measures also call for increased militarization of the border, including the construction of a border wall, as well as the hiring of more immigration officers and the use of local police for immigration enforcement, among other policies.  

Migrant farmworkers often travel throughout different states due to the seasonal nature of agricultural work, but they are now facing increased fear and uncertainty about the possibility of immigration enforcement. Farmworkers are also fearful of traveling within their local communities for day-to-day tasks like running errands, dropping their children off at school, or receiving medical treatment, potentially increasing their vulnerability and isolation.

Farmworker Justice has additionally heard various concerning reports about migrant workers and immigrant rights’ activists, including farmworkers in New York and Vermont, being targeted by immigration enforcement. This type of heightened immigration enforcement may lead to an increase in labor abuses as farmworkers become fearful of speaking out and suffering retaliation.  Employer concern about immigration enforcement is also expected to result in an even higher use of the H-2A guest worker program, with increasing pressure by agribusiness for the Administration to cut the already inadequate labor protections and oversight in the program.  

In these uncertain times, Farmworker Justice would like to remind all farmworkers of the importance of knowing and protecting their rights, regardless of their immigration status. To this end, Farmworker Justice has compiled a list of available “Know Your Rights” materials produced by partner organizations, as well as original materials in English and Spanish to help farmworkers and their communities better prepare for and respond to increased immigration enforcement.

by Iris Figueroa
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Saturday, 25 March 2017

From 2000 to 2014, Latinos accounted for over half of all population growth in the US. Although birth and immigration rates among Latinos have slowed since the Great Recession, as of 2014 Latinos made up 17% of the general US population, making Latinos the largest ethnic minority group. By 2060, Latinos are projected to make up over a quarter of all Americans.

Second-generation Latinos, as discussed in a recent piece in the Pacific Standard, tend to engage in “selective acculturation,” in which “fluent bilingualism and the reinforcement of ethnic identity” define an individual’s place in US culture as opposed to gradual erasure of that individual’s ethnic identity.

The US should focus on providing bi-cultural Americans with the best start in life that the government can offer. Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) represents the best chance many children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers have to receive that crucial, quality start. Farmworker Justice is proud of our collaborations with the MSHS programs and particularly the work of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project.

Research shows that high-quality early childhood education not only improves a student’s individual academic and economic prospects, but provides society-wide social and economic benefits as well; perhaps most compellingly, research indicates that these societal benefits are so great that early childhood education programs end up paying for themselves.

MSHS provides early childhood education on a schedule that supports the work patterns of migrant and seasonal farmworkers. It provides extended care hours and meals to students, along with assistance accessing healthcare and social services. Amidst drastic domestic budget cuts, we must continue to fight for those that support health and success of farmworker children, Learn more about the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project by following their facebook page here.

by Jessica Felix-Romero
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