This week, we are celebrating Farmworker Awareness Week to raise awareness about farmworker issues in our communities. CATA’s Food Justice Coordinator, Kathia Ramirez, wrote about what it’s like to migrate to the United States and become a farmworker in this piece produced for Why Hunger’s Food Justice Voices series. Read the article here and a special thanks to Why Hunger for supporting this article.
The Farmworker Support Committee (CATA) and its members believe in an inclusive country that stands for tolerance and respect for all people, regardless of race, religion, country of origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and immigrant status. The actions of President Trump in his first week in office do not represent or create that kind of country. His executive orders calling for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and banning entry of refugees and citizens of specific countries only promote discrimination and continue to create strong divisions between the people in this country.
“The most important thing is that they respect us and they give us [immigrants and refugees] the opportunity to advance ourselves in our work and family lives. We are not going to tolerate a government that is discriminatory towards us. We are also a part of the development of this country and this country can’t develop economically without us,” said Efren Diego, president of CATA’s Board of Directors in response to President Trump’s executive orders.
We know that now is the moment to organize ourselves and lift up our voices, as many times as it takes, against the discriminatory policies that are currently being implemented. We need to be united in order to face what is coming in the future. We cannot think just of ourselves and in our own interests, we must see how we are all connected in the struggle for the greater good. It is our responsibility to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, including the Latino community, refugees, Muslims, the LGBT community, African-Americans, and any other group that comes under attack.
These recent actions and term of President Trump provide us with an opportunity to reflect on how we are going to live out our values. It gives us the opportunity to act in defense of these values and to seek out unity and justice for everyone.
All of us here at CATA wish you and your family peace and joy in the New Year! Thank you for all of your support!
Read CATA’s newsletter, The Siembra, here.
Today, June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court announced that they could not come to a decision on the legality of President Obama’s executive actions that would have given deportation relief and work permits to undocumented parents of citizen children and students who came to the United States as children after 2007 but before 2010. The 8 judges deadlocked in a tie, 4 in favor and 4 against. Unable to make a decision, the lower court decision to suspend the programs remains in effect.
We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court and its inability to come to a decision in favor of the undocumented community in the United States. We are also disappointed in the government and politicians for their anti-immigrant attitudes and their refusal to fix our broken immigration system.
Immigration policy should not be based on fear and intolerance, but rather on the fulfillment of people’s basic human rights and recognizing the dignity of all people. The lack of a comprehensive immigration reform is extremely frustrating and the migrant community is tired of hearing the same rejection time and time again. Congress needs to stop focusing on petty politics and focus on creating a genuine comprehensive solution.
For CATA, a path to citizenship is the solution for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. We will continue fighting for the rights of migrants so that they receive the recognition that they deserve for their contributions to the well-being of this country.
CATA Declaration Against ICE’s Actions in January 2016
Beginning January 2, 2016, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 121 people in three states – Georgia, North Carolina and Texas. Many who were arrested were women and children. Immigration says they’re looking for people who are “priorities for enforcement” and/or individuals with previous deportation orders. What we really know is that most are from Central America and are not a risk to public safety.
CATA denounces these actions by the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security because they are focusing on terrorizing families and individuals, many of whom are in compliance with the orders of immigration; being present at appointments with immigration and some even being monitored with ankle bracelets.
“We understand that these actions by ICE are designed to rob people of their right to a fair hearing before an immigration judge and to spread fear in the migrant community,” said Jessica Culley of CATA. “It is the job of immigrant organizations like CATA to ensure that all people know their rights and to fight together against these injustices.”
We ask that our communities stay alert, but not be frightened. If you have information about the activities of Immigration, please call us so we can try to investigate. Our phone numbers are: 856-881-2507 in New Jersey, 610-444-9696 in Pennsylvania, and 410-572-5959 in Maryland.
Also, remember, do not open the door to anyone without knowing who it is. If a police officer or immigration agent arrives home, they have to show a court warrant through the window or under the door. They must have the name and address of a person who lives there on the warrant in order to enter. If they do not have this information, do not open the door.
We must be united and we invite you to stay in touch with CATA.
As we look back on 2015, I am excited by the progress made by our members, supporters, and staff at CATA during this year.
This year our members and staff:
- Lauched RadioCATA, CATA’s very own low-power FM station in Bridgeton, NJ. The station also streams online at com, so we hope you tune in!
- Completed another successful growing season in CATA’s organic community gardens in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
- Advocated for a stronger Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to lessen farmworkers’ risk of exposure to pesticides. The new WPS was released this past September and our members are now focused on enforcement and implementation.
- Provided health and safety and workers’ rights trainings to hundreds of farmworkers and migrant workers.
- Advanced CATA’s credit union application. We are working through this multi-year process to charter a credit union for CATA’s members to have control over their finances and influential economic power.
- Participated in local, national, and international meetings and conferences on the topics of food, environmental, and climate justice, ensuring that workers’ rights are always a part of the dialogue.
You can also read more about CATA’s 2015 in the latest edition of our newsletter, The Siembra.
Our members continue to fight to change the unfair systems and policies that oppress migrant workers and their families. We affirm that the struggle goes beyond the recognition of the basic human rights of migrants and workers. The struggle is to challenge society to not be guided by fear and intolerance, but by the recognition of the value and inherent dignity of human life.
Our work in the coming years will be dedicated to addressing these issues. We wouldn’t be able to do this important work without the help and financial support of our friends and allies. Any contribution to CATA, large or small, puts us all one step closer to living in a society that respects the rights of all people.
For your convenience, a reply card and envelope are enclosed for your response. If you prefer, you can make your tax-deductible gift online through Just Give at http://tinyurl.com/Donate-to-CATA.
All of us here at CATA wish you and your family peace and joy in the New Year! Thank you again for all your support. ¡Si se puede!
Nelson Carrasquillo, General Coordinator
If we can raise $400 in donations by December 16, 2015 for CATA’s Organic Community Garden in Kennett Square, PA, we will receive a matching $400 grant! The garden is run by CATA members and provides organic produce to the community and allows for members to share their agricultural knowledge with younger generations. The garden is part of a CATA’s effort to promote pesticide-free agriculture and increase access to healthy, organic foods to the migrant community. Please consider making a donation to the garden by December 16, 2015 to help support this important work. Thank you!
On September 28, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the revised Worker Protection Standard (WPS). Since then, CATA has taken the time to closely read and examine the new revisions in order to provide a clear analysis and position.
During the comment period on the proposed revision that took place last year, CATA provided thoughtful analyses and recommendations to lawmakers, individual experts, and other organizations to submit comments urging the EPA for better farmworker protections. As a result, nearly 200 CATA farmworker members and supporters submitted their own public comment on the WPS.
We recognize that some of the changes are an improvement to the previous standard. Employers are now required to give a pesticide safety training every year instead of every 5 years, as was the case in the old WPS. Also, the EPA has established 18 years of age as the minimum age for applying pesticides. The previous rule did not stipulate a minimum age. The new rule maintains the requirement of a central posting area for information about the pesticides being used, even though it was proposed to be eliminated. These changes do allow for more protections for farmworkers but will only be beneficial if they are enforced properly.
In order for the changes to be effective, responsible government agencies must have the capacity to enforce meaningful regulations and employers must also be held accountable for their actions. We advocate for more funds to be channeled to the enforcement agencies so that a sufficient number of inspectors can be hired. Inspectors must be bilingual and be able to speak Spanish and Creole in order to communicate directly with workers. We feel there should also be an increase in the number of surprise and random inspections at the farms and fines should be raised in order to discourage noncompliance. Also, enforcement agencies should work closely with community-based farmworker organizations in ensuring farmworker safety.
Exposure to pesticides causes farmworkers to suffer more chemical related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce nationwide, yet protections to workers afforded by the WPS are fundamentally inadequate. It is important to note that root-cause problems of farmworker’s occupational exposure to pesticides will not be remedied, even with the revisions.
While it was important for CATA and its members to demand a stronger WPS, we do not believe that the WPS is an acceptable standard for protecting workers from pesticide exposure. We believe that the best method of risk reduction is to mitigate and eventually eliminate pesticide usage in agriculture. More support should be given to organic farming, Integrated Pest Management programs and other practices to facilitate the transition to toxic-free agriculture. Phasing out the use of pesticides is the only way to guarantee that farmworkers will not face the harmful risks that come from exposure. And this will not only benefit farmworkers, but will improve the health of farmers, consumers, and the natural environment as well.
Download the full statement here.
CATA has launched a new radio station for its members and the migrant community. The Spanish language station is broadcast live from Bridgeton, NJ on 102.5 FM and streamed on the Internet. The station will now play an integral role in spreading CATA’s message so that our members and the wider community can organize and fight for their rights.
On Thursday, November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his executive order on immigration. The President’s executive order will allow undocumented immigrants, who have lived in the United States for at least five years and have children who are US citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, to temporarily work and live in the United States without fear of deportation as long as they pass a criminal background check, pay all of their taxes, and pay a fee. The executive order also expands the pool of people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include those who arrived before Jan. 1, 2010 without any age limitation.
We support the fact that this order will allow a portion of the undocumented population a period of relief from the fear of deportation that they live with every day. However, we are disappointed with the limits to this action. Most of our members will not qualify for this relief even though they have been working and paying taxes in the United States for many years. For those that will qualify, the order is still discriminatory. Undocumented immigrants who qualify for the temporary deportation relief will be given a social security number to pay their taxes with but will continue to be excluded from claiming retirement benefits and from the Affordable Care Act.
The claim is that this order will temporarily protect around 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, including the expanded eligible population for the DACA program. However, that does not mean that all 5+ million will apply due to the fact that this order has a very unclear future. Justifiably, many undocumented immigrants fear that putting their name on a list for temporary relief will lead to negative consequences when the President leaves office and should his order be overturned by the next President.
We at CATA understand that the presence of undocumented workers in the U.S. not only contributes to the betterment of civil society but is a crucial element for the viability of our broken food system. For example, New Jersey would lose $24.2 billion in economic activity and about 103,898 jobs if all unauthorized immigrants were removed. Our society and, in particular, the corporate agricultural and food industries, takes advantage of the vulnerability of the undocumented population in order to maintain low salaries and increase profits. Although undocumented immigrants contribute financially through purchasing and living costs, they are systemically kept in poverty. This order does very little to address any of those issues.
While this executive order is a step in the right direction, it is far from addressing the real problems; it is merely a small band-aid on the gaping wound that is our broken immigration system. The President is right to address this issue, but much more needs to be done. Congress needs to stop focusing on petty politics and come up with a genuine, comprehensive solution. We will continue to push for a path to citizenship as a solution to the presence of more than 11 million undocumented people. The principle which immigration policy should be based on is the fulfillment of the human rights and dignity of every person. We affirm that the struggle goes beyond the recognition of the basic human rights of migrants and workers. The struggle is to challenge society to not be guided by fear and intolerance, but by the recognition of the value and inherent dignity of human life.
We want to thank everyone who stood in solidarity with the Kaolin Workers Union. Unfortunately, the Union lost the election and consequently their contract. While we are deeply disappointed by these events, we understand that this loss takes place within a context of declining union membership, growing pushes for anti-worker legislation and the elimination of the middle class.
We believe that the best protection for worker’s rights is a union contract. Unfortunately, more and more is being done to undermine unions and workers’ rights. So called “Right to Work” laws are becoming increasingly prevalent as companies look for ways to control their workforce as much as possible. This is not the direction that we want to go in. All workers should have to right to form a Union and negotiate for better working conditions.
There remains a core group of union leadership committed to the mission of organizing the workers at Kaolin for fair labor rights in their workplace, and CATA remains committed to supporting them in this new challenging environment. We will continue to keep you updated as the Kaolin Workers Union continues their struggle. ¡La Lucha Sigue!