Hurricane Dorian represents the destruction of property and the interruption of people’s lives all-along the east coast from Southern Florida north. We are at peak season for the harvest and the migrant farmworker families stand to lose even more than that.
It is devastation for these families that have little more than nothing and rely only on their strong backs and their belief in the work ethic to survive. They come out of Florida in the spring and move upstream with the crops all the way north and west to places like New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
Hurricane Dorian threatens their work and their very survival. I am sure that the farmworker families are on their cell phones checking with each other about what is best to do.
When Dorian was set to hit Puerto Rico, President Trump let out a tirade of vituperations against the island and its people as though it was one of the [expletive] countries he loves to talk about and not Americans like you and me. His accusations of corruption sound more like a projection of the ills that are descriptive of Donald Trump, his family and those around him.
The people of Puerto Rico are generally lucky that Hurricane Dorian only grazed the island. Otherwise, it would have been Hurricane Maria and hell to pay again.
The migrant and seasonal farmworkers are not alone as there are many advocacy groups and non-profit agencies that know their plight well. At the national level, there is UnidosUS headed by Janet Murgia, the largest Latino advocacy organization in the country and farmworker specific agencies like United Farm Workers Union headed by Teresa Romero, MAFO led by Heladio Zavala and Farmworker Justice under the leadership of Bruce Goldstein among others.
In addition, there are state and local organizations that want to help. In North Carolina, for example, there is the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina led by Juvencio Rocha Peralta that continues to emphasize service to the famworker community.
Among the prominent migrant education agencies is East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, the largest migrant head start organization in the country that serves over 2,500 children from 2,000 migrant families in 7 states on the east coast. Its unrestricted funds are used to help these families in times of emergency.
East Coast also sponsored and supported the establishment of the Foundation for Farmworkers on July 19th in Washington D.C. It is a national foundation designed to assist farmworker families in ways that advance the American Dream for this unique community.
I remember the life of a migrant farmworker that toiled the land across America making the farm of the time the center piece of much of the rural economy. Today, farmers are suffering not only from high tariffs, but also from a farmworker shortage of over 1 million.
Our farmworkers on the east coast are mostly immigrants and the majority Mexican. As such, they fit into the Trump narrative that denies them their proper place in the sequence that takes crops from the fields to our dinner table.
The life of a farmworker, especially a migrant farmworker, is very difficult. Very little has changed in the last hundred years in terms of housing, transportation and working conditions.
Yet, the farmworkers go about their business cheerfully and happy to find farms and fields ready to be worked, no matter how hard the task. That is an ethic they bring to an America that sometimes finds the idea distracting.