The coronavirus has certainly made one thing clear for everyone- we greatly depend on essential services, yet we have always taken them for granted. The federal government has just now considered field workers as essential to the U.S..
“It’s like suddenly they realized we are here contributing,” said Nancy Silva to CNN. She’s an immigrant from Mexico who worked South of Bakersfield, California in clementine groves.
The majority of agricultural workers in the United States are Mexican. Many have been in the U.S. for decades, or are the parents of children born here. The National Center for Farmworker Health estimates that there are more than 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in The U.S., and about 68% of them were born in Mexico. They carry this country on their backs, yet are among the least protected from the virus.
It is very difficult for them to follow social distancing guidelines due to their crowded commutes and close proximity while in the field. In some cases, the houses they live in provided by their employers typically are extremely packed.
LA Times reports that already 19 Mexican agricultural workers were diagnosed with coronavirus. Mexican consulates have been working in order to inform workers about health recommendations and how to keep themselves safe.
Hector Lujan told CNN, “It’s sad that it takes a health crisis like this to highlight the farmworker’s importance.” Mr. Lujan employs thousands of agricultural workers, and says they are the unsung heroes that guarantee Americans food security.
We owe these workers more than one can imagine. Protecting their health and welfare should be the top priority for everyone. We need to ensure they have suitable housing and transportation, protective gear, and are at the top of the list to test for coronavirus and receive medical attention.
It’s extremely important that the processes for receiving visas continue so that they have the legal protection to work where they are urgently needed.
When this is all over, it is not to be forgotten that they have stuck in the fields, despite all the adversity they are constantly confronted with. They have faced a lengthy history of hardships such as racism, long labor hours, limited access to health care, and denial of basic human rights, which is why we will forever be in debt to them.
“Conditions in the Fields.” Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFLCIO, www.floc.com/wordpress/reynolds-campaign/conditions-in-the-fields/.
“Op-Ed: California Farm Workers Urgently Need Coronavirus Protections.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2020, www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-04-14/coronavirus-farm-workers-testing.
Shoichet, Catherine E. “The Farmworkers Putting Food on America’s Tables Are Facing Their Own Coronavirus Crisis.” CNN, Cable News Network, 11 Apr. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/04/11/us/farmworkers-coronavirus/index.html.
Image: Krauze, León. “Opinion | Undocumented Immigrants, Essential to the U.S. Economy, Deserve Federal Help Too.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 Apr. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/13/undocumented-immigrants-essential-us-economy-deserve-federal-help-too/.