On Thursday March 18th the Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the house with a 247-172 vote; the majority of votes in favor coming from Democrats. C2C and Farmworker organizations nationally have opposed this legislation since it was introduced in 2019 during the Trump administration. We are deeply concerned that Democrats are giving in to political pressure to move quickly on immigration bills; with a dangerous tradeoff that will set in place the long-term implications of the FWMA. We remain opposed to the FWMA as it is written. We urge our supporters to reach out to your senators and tell them to vote “NO” on this bill. While it is being touted as a bipartisan effort to attain a path for citizenship, what is being left out of the conversation is that this bill’s “path” sets up an 8-year period of exploitation that farmworkers have to survive in order to eventually qualify for citizenship. Workers who are injured during the eight-year process will be disqualified. The ultimate recommendation for citizenship will have to come from employers, which further entrenches the longstanding power imbalance between workers and farm owners. Two dangerous long-term mandates in this bill are forcing agricultural employers to use E-Verify, the faulty audit system that has resulted in massive detention and deportation. This will put millions of undocumented people living and working in the United States at risk. The other mandate is linking legalization to the exploitative federal H2A (guest worker) program, and permanently expanding it, making it harder for workers to organize and easier for corporate agriculture to obtain and exploit cheap labor, instead of hiring farmworkers already living in the U.S. Read our joint statement with the Food Chain Workers Alliance here. Sign on to Oppose FWMA Here! Call and write your senators THIS WEEK and ask them to vote NO on the FWMA. Find your senator’s contact info here!
On January 20, 2021, newly inaugurated President Biden announced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a broad immigration bill he sent to Congress immediately upon taking office. The bill would provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented population, a border management approach that includes a focus on addressing root causes of forced migration, a legal immigration reform platform, a series of humanitarian provisions, and additional rights for immigrant workers. On February 18, the bill was introduced in the House by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-California) and in the Senate by Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey). https://immigrationforum.org/article/u-s-citizenship-act-of-2021-bill-summary/Read more here.
“If they’re hearing complaints like, ‘Oh it’s cold in here,’ they’ll be like, ‘It could be worse,’ and turn on fans.”
COVID-19 has pulled back the veil on the strikingly poor workplace conditions of these essential workers, built by decades of insufficient farmworker health and safety policy, poor immigration policy, and limited health care access. As a consequence, at least 86,900 food workers have tested positive for COVID-19 – but with uneven data collection, exacerbated by businesses' lack of transparency over workplace outbreaks and workers' avoidance of testing due to fear of losing income, the figures we have are likely an underestimate. Read more here.
Each year, untold numbers of migrants disappear in the borderlands after being pushed into dangerous and remote terrain by Border Patrol, the same agency that is then tasked with responding to migrants’ search and rescue emergencies. A new report released Wednesday found that the federal agency does not respond to 40% of these emergency calls. In a series of reports published over the course of five years, the southern Arizona organizations No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos have cataloged and reported the specific Border Patrol policies and tactics that have fueled a crisis of death and disappearance in the borderlands. The first report, released in 2016, detailed the 1994 Border Patrol policy “Prevention Through Deterrence” in which the United States militarized urban border areas in an effort to steer migrants away from ports of entry and into geographically harsher and more remote and hazardous regions, leading to their deaths. The second report, published in 2018, detailed Border Patrol’s practice of destroying life-saving humanitarian aid left by volunteers for migrants. Part three in the series published Wednesday—Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance—details how when 911 response systems receive calls from people crossing into the United States without authorization, they transfer those calls away from local emergency services and to Border Patrol, an agency that for decades has failed to provide life-saving assistance to undocumented immigrants who are lost and dying. Read more here.
On Thursday, January 28th, at 8am the WA State Senate’s Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee will hold a first hearing for SB 5172. If passed the bill could prevent dairy workers, and possibly thousands of agricultural workers in Washington State from receiving retroactive (back) overtime pay. TAKE ACTION NOW The bill is due for its first hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs this Thursday morning at 8am. It’s important that farmworkers and their advocates and supporters show our opposition to the bill. HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO: Please share this message widely with people in Washington state who care about fair wages for farmworkers. Let the committee know that you are opposed to this bill by going to the link below and selecting “Con” (against). The latest you can sign in is 6:59am Thursday morning. https://app.leg.wa.gov/CSIRemote/Testimony/Form?chamber=Senate&meetingFamilyId=28358&agendaItemFamilyId=138984&remoteLocationId=50&testify=False&fbclid=IwAR3qxGOQwEqnBF1ErLfHGfcCHlf1qJprYHp-DFzU1oJpuc9hpd98_5bl2h4
The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network is thrilled to share that the Fair Fight Bond Fund is open and accepting applications for people who are detained by immigration in the State of Washington and need support with paying bond.
To request assistance with paying a bond, a request form must be completed. This request form will be reviewed by the Fair Fight Bond Fund steering committee. The steering committee is made up of seven community members, including people who have been directly impacted and have experienced being in immigration detention. All requests for funds will be fully considered on a case-by-case basis and the steering committee will try to pay as many bonds as possible, so long as funds are available. The steering committee will aim to meet on a weekly basis to review applications and give responses as soon as possible.
The steering committee will aim to prioritize individuals who are facing especially difficult situations due to being detained. This includes applicants who are facing physical and/or mental health issues that are aggravated by being detained; applicants who are the primary caretakers to dependents who are facing immediate hardship due to the applicant’s detention; applicants who face serious economic hardship and have no or limited support, options, and resources to pay their bond; applicants who will face negative long-term effects on their immigration status due to being detained; applicants who are members of the LGBTQ community; and applicants who face marginalization based on their language, race, ethnicity, or religion.
Please find the English version of the application at this link: https://bit.ly/
Trabjadores unidos por la Justicia needs your support. They are currently struggling to create a union Workers United for Justice (TUJ) union at Allan Brothers, Inc., for their farmworkers and families. They are trying to form this union in order to seek fair wages, safe working conditions, access to health care, the ability to retire with dignity and other basic human needs. Allan Brothers, Inc. apparently has been engaged in intimidating behavior threatening to fire the workers, report them to ICE and threatening deportation of them and their families, and other tactics to prevent them from voting to form this union. Morale among the farmworkers is suffering and they need to know we support them. We also need to show Allan Brothers, Inc., that we are behind the farmworkers. It’s a simple ask: take a picture of yourself with a sign to show your support and post it to their Facebook page! Trabjadores unidos por la Justicia: https://www.facebook.com/trabajadoresunidosworkersunited/
Since Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) launched the WA COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, over 55,000 people have applied and 16,000 applications have been approved! This is thanks to the tireless work of our community and our organizational partners doing vital outreach and application support. We have two weeks left to get as many applications as possible. That’s where you come in. Due to COVID-19, we haven’t been able to host in-person events to help our community members apply. But you can help by volunteering to be a Virtual Application Helper. The timing is completely flexible–just list the hours you’re available to help and wait for a community member to sign up. We also welcome any languages, so no need to only speak Spanish. Ready to volunteer? Join a required Application Assistance training:
- Nov. 30, 5:30-7:00
- Dec. 1, 6:00-8:00pm
- Dec. 2, 5:30-7:00pm
- Dec. 3, 6:00-8:00pm
COVID-19 financial relief —by and for immigrants.
The Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund provides a $1,000 one-time direct payment (up to $3,000 per household). Eligibility includes: WA resident; at least 18 years old; been significantly affected by the pandemic (such as losing work, being infected by the virus, or caring for a family member who was infected); ineligible to receive federal stimulus dollars or unemployment insurance money due to immigration status. Application and documentation required. For assistance, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-844-724-3737 (Mon-Fri, 9AM-9PM).
From Community to Community (C2C-partner of the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship):
Update! On Monday we asked our supporters to call the Department of Health and L&I to demand health and safety protections for farmworkers. We now have the direct phone number for Joel Sacks, Director of L&I. Please call him directly at (360) 902-4293. Demand that proper ventilation is required in Farmworker housing. Demand that workplaces are shut down in response to covid outbreaks. We will not tolerate the ongoing exploitation of Farmworker lives!
We invite you to join us to for bi-weekly Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) General Meeting Covid19 HUB #ImmigrantHealthResponse calls for exciting news and updates! This is reminder that WAISN will be hosting its weekly COVID-19 Response HUB call September 24th and every Thursday from 3-5 PM over Zoom. Call information below:
- Are a Washington resident;
- Are at least 18 years of age;
- Have experienced hardship due to the pandemic; and
- Are ineligible to receive unemployment insurance compensation or federal stimulus dollars due to immigration status.
The death of two fellow farmers from complications of the virus — Earl Edwards of Jamaica and Juan Carlos Santiago Rincon of Mexico — and what he believed was the overall lack of safety precautions at Gebbers Farm persuaded William to leave the United States in August after only a couple of months. Normally, he would have stayed through to November. Instead, he asked his sister, Shellie-Ann Kerns, who lives five hours away on the small Bunkhouse Acres farm in the Middle Satsop Valley for help in purchasing an airplane ticket back home. Launched in 1952 under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the H-2A program was meant to help solve what industry leaders described as a domestic labor shortage in agriculture. In Washington state, one of the nation’s top destinations for H-2A workers, growers requested more than 26,000 foreign workers last year. There were a number of growers, however, who canceled their contracts this year, in part due to concerns over the coronavirus and an inability to practice social distancing, resulting in almost 3,000 fewer worker applications, said Norma Chavez of the state Employment Security Department. Read more here.
Groups like the Yakima, Washington-based Northwest Horticultural Council are saying they can’t find enough people to pick fruit. The heavily agricultural area has been the epicenter of a breakout in the state. Covid-19 safeguards designed to protect workers have also made it impossible for some farmers to bring in the number of workers they require, according to the council. Read more here.
All leaders must frame their COVID-19 responses within existing obligations under international law. Whilst states may temporarily close their borders to limit transmission, any such measures should be non-discriminatory, necessary, proportionate and reasonable in all circumstances. It is understandable and proper that a leader’s first priority is to take care of the people they govern. But in a global crisis, attention must also be paid to those groups of marginalised people whose situations transcend national borders: refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Furthermore, public health measures put in place to protect citizens should not exclude those with irregular status, or be used to further isolate or punish them. Read more here.
Still, the novel coronavirus has continued to rage through the ranks of Yakima’s agricultural workers and the broader county population in a pandemic that health district officials believe to be increasingly driven by what happens outside of the workplace, where masks are often not worn in stores and elsewhere, and holiday weekends result in case counts spiking.