If you have questions for the people who work in the tomato fields here in Immokalee please post them here. This is where to find all our updates. We’ll also post things straight to the blog.
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Hi, Ros & WHYS Team,
It sounds like you’re going to treat us to a litany of how the American Dream can turn into an American Nightmare. While it is undoubtedly true that many immigrants experience living nightmares, please don’t forget that a lot of illegal immigrants actually do achieve the American Dream.
My sister-in-law was an illegal immigrant, a migratory agricultural labourer who got herself a job at a nursery and tree farm, where she met my brother. My brother secured American citizenship for her, and for her three children when he adopted them. That entitled them to benefits from the U.S. military, but all my brother had to live on was his military disability pension. It was my sister-in-law who worked to buy a home and put those three kids through the University of California system. They all have university degrees, good jobs and great lives.
I’m really curious if the BBC would do a show about any other nation’s illegal immigrants and how they should be able to get better employment? Don’t see it happening, other than the show you did about some illegal immigrant camp that was forced to move from place to place, and the people had absolutely no work, and wanted to get to the UK because they heard the UK gives more handouts.
Why if there is not the financial security in the family unit does the culture of having so many children come from within the Hispanic community?
Why is it that the countries that have this problem with mass migration, corruption and social unrest are predominately Catholic?
Surly some sort of family planning would give people the chance to get out of poverty and take the enormous pressure off the adults who have to provide for them by working like slaves the result of which is that there children remain impoverished and uneducated and the circle of poverty is never broken.
It is the legacy of the days when bodies were needed for wars.
These American farm owners could still justify the low wages but not that tendency to subject imigrant workers to harsh, abusive treatments.
I hope the CIW’s campaign succeeds.
Sent on a phone using T9space.com
The CIW’s campaign aside, if a slave steps off the bus at the CIW’s headquarters with higher wages, his or her slaver will only take that bigger pay check away from them! There is no correlation between a higher wage and being held as a slave. Ask those being held in indentured servitude who their captors are. If you research the majority of those convicted of trafficking and holding slaves, they’re not typically the large growers, they’re often former farmer workers holding current farmer workers.
And let’s not forget the women. Who’s running all the brothels in Immokalee where the indentured women have to work? Ask U.S. Attorney Doug Molloy? They’re typically run by other current and former farm workers.
They are two very separate and important issues.
America has always been a land of opportunity, not for the faint-hearted but for those who have real ability, the luck, the guts, determination and who have the courage of their convictions. Many simply do not have the opportunities to prove their real worth. They are simply not allowed in. You need to be in the right place, at the right time, with a helping hand to get you through a complicated maze of paper-work and/or officialdom. Those who succeed at the end are the truly lucky ones. But give them credit for their effort but think of the capable ones who lost out simply because they had neither connections nor luck!America will always beckon the brave and the courageous; it will always be a land of opportunity. The real pity is that terrorists have forced past and present Administrations to make the country into a fortress.
I have absolutely no sympathy for these people. They are the result of immigration laws with the wrong focus and they undermine our economy. We need to focus immigration law on fining the people that hire illegal immigrants and leave the illegals alone. This will bring the wages paid to a point that legal citizens can afford to do the work. This in turn would bring more money to the community. It would also increase the cost of whatever is being produced which in turn would open the market in other countries, which is better than sending aid.
There is no way that the perceived need for illegal labor is anything but a blight on our nation. Actually, until the focus on the law changes, I hope they get more money. Maybe then legal workers can afford to work there.
People who hire illegal imigrants should be prosecuted. They are obligated to file paperwork and report taxable income. If the rules and punishments where more strict then employers would perhapse have less of a financial incentive to hire illegal imigrants.
As to the situation of the worker, I do feel bad for them.However they are victims of their own illegal behavior. They would not be in a position to be abused if they hadn’t put themselves there. And they would have firmer ground to stand on and decry the unfairness if they where not breaking the law themselves. They might argue they are comming into our country to escape poverty. I would say back that you are bringing it with you.
Many do properly pay taxes. It’s funny how they can choose which laws they want to follow.
There is a similar immigrant, labor, poverty cycle here in Oregon, where workers are exploited and utilized for only the dirtiest of jobs at a greatly reduced wage. Some people make it and others end up homeless, (another major problem). The answer to the question why is simple; People do not care about the plight of others as long as it serves their needs and they do not have to deal with it. I work in construction and so many people in this industry either rail against migrant workers taking their jobs and almost in the same sentence, suggest hiring them for the back breaking labor that no one wants to do, because, it is cheaper. Standing on corners and at building material and landscaping stores, workers wait like cattle for one more day of horrible wages and thankless work. The most maddening part of it is that most of the migrant workers and day laborers I have worked with take more pride in their menial tasks than higher paid union and trade workers ever do. The system is rotten from the top on down.
yes. i agree. the sad reality of capitalism and the race to the bottom.
my question is how to move this conversation to the masses. not just those who listen to public media… why are there school children and grown adults who know nothing about forced slavery in the US?
Yes that is so true there Archiald., not only take pride in what they do but also doing jobs that other’s here in the US would not do. Let’s not forget a couple of year’s ago that is was American people that was in the fields doing these kinds of work. So what is the difference of someone that is a citizen if this country do the work and someone that is from somewhere else doing that same work that WE as US citizen use to do in the past?
You are absolutely right about population explosions being the source of many problems in the third world.
Religion often plays a role (mostly, Islam, Catholicism and Hinduism), along with general social conservatism.
In India this leads to water shortages and a developing ecological disaster that affects the whole world, in Gaza it greatly increases the problems posed by the Israeli/Egyptian blockade, in Yemen it leads to abject unemployment and terrorism and in Mexico and the US it leads to poor workers slaving all day.
The Western press focus in on populations in tropical countries. Fly over Africa and South America, and see the thousands of km of empty spaces. The world population problem is that there are too many North Americans and Europeans gobbling up and wasting the world resources. The over-consumption of rich nations is the problem. We eat too much, drive too many cars, burn too much oil and gas, waste too much electricity. Do our cities have to be so bright at nights?
It’s really sad to hear people consider working a job, the only job you can get, as “slave labor”. Not many people like their jobs, or even WANT to work, but they simply have to, to pay their bills. Does that make us all slaves?
no it absolutely doesn’t. that’s the point.
In a way yes, but we are not being forced or being watched inside our houses as these people are to make sure they don’t leave the camp and come to work the next day.
I’m avoiding making too many comments, I’m too close to this issue to be objective. People who are abused and exploited get my sympathy regardless if they are here illegally or not.
How can the government act when so many of these people are here illegally and the government has no idea they even exist? how can you check up on an employer if you don’t know who is being employed (especially because taxes aren’t being withheld, which happens with illegal immigrants). If you’re illegally in a place, and get the only work you can get, it’s pretty likely that you will be taken advantage of and not have much recourse.
I friend of mine’s cousin is a spanish speaking lawyer, and he does criminal defence work for hispanic people (many illegally here) in Maryland, and he absolutely has no fear of conducting malpractice (though of course He will never deliberately be negligent) because he knows they don’t speak english and basically dont’ understand the system for disciplining lawyers.. So he theroetically could do a terrible job, and have no consequences. He could not follow the rules, such as not commingling client funds, and not get caught.
Employers fear tax laws. So most follow a system to set up legal accounts for illegal immigrants. This and the classic drive up raid would work very well to bust employers for hiring illegals.
Unless everyone out there is sweating at a manual labor job for sub standard wages, I think it is a bit of a stretch to say we are, “all slaves”. It may be sad to hear that people feel that way about their jobs, but, obviously not all people have the luxury of choice.
It’s quite strange that the US is deploying hundreds of thousand troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to fight terrorism while it can’t send the troops needed to end slavery work on its own territory.
It’s also quite strange to know that conditions that exist only in poor areas in the third world do exist in a presumably one of the most developed country.
That’s crap that the U.S. government is trying to help slaves. A few years back during the Reagan administration along Interstate highway 10 in Arizona, I saw U.S. border patrol standing guard with a rifle while workers tended a field. He was an”overseer” straight out of history books, straight out of the movie “Roots”. Our government enables major corporations to take advantage of these people.
I have lived in Florida all of my life.What I can tell every one from my experience is the following:
Those who are not in the US legally,add to the corruption that already existed here.
Those who employ people who are illegal are criminals by law;but the law is not enforced.
Those who do not enforce the law;do so to protect thier jobs.
The problem has spread into the construction industry,and the wages have been held down by those working for half or less than a person who is a legal citizen.
Those who are here illegally,are here by choice;they work for modern slavers as a result of that choice.I don’t feel sorry for the illegal workers,I feel sorry for the children they bring with them and make the children grow up thinking it’s o.k. to break the law.
The politicians need to have the will to stop illegal immigration and stop modern slavery by making everyone follow the law.
Other than human trafficing,you have gang activity and drug dealing there also.That is part of the trouble in Immokalee also.
Well to make it better put.. There is gang activity and drug dealing from coast to coast. What’s new with that subject beside people who might have never live in Immokalee always putting Immokalee down??
Has ever the conditions of slavery workers become an electoral issue? What enforcement do state and federal governments have to end them?
If they shut these horrible businesses down, these illegal “slaves” will have no jobs and have to go back to their country… Wait a sec, sounds good to me on BOTH fronts, SHUT THEM DOWN!!!
-Anthony, LA, CA
Bad idea, we need the jobs and revenue these businesses provide. Just fine them to the point they can’t afford to hire illegals. If the illegals can’t find work, they won’t come. Let them find their own way out of the country.
It’s not so much of the business Its who they are working for that is taking there own kind and enslaving them like that.
We should hang our heads in shame? Where do you think you get your gas to drive your car…? Don’t tell ME to hang my head in shame unless you ride only a bike, grow your own food, and create your own energy.
cut it out?! why don’t you cut us a check for all the tax dollars spent on them.
The “American Dream” is built on an individualistic world view. We will never have a true dialogue about this or any type of human centered problem in this country where we teach kids to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and fight for “their” dream. From this perspective there is not enough room to care for others.
Carly from Portland OR
I understand that these folks are doing the job that no other American will do. We need to give them more respect.
What can the average American do to help combat this issue?
I know companys like Starbucks changed their coffee to fair trade – is there a way we can do that with products we buy her on an everyday basis?
NOUN: 1. The state of one bound in servitude as the property of a slaveholder or household.
They are NOT slaves.
I TRY not to buy Chinese products all the time and I don’t shop at Wal-Mart and only buy free-range eggs etc, etc.
What would be great is an emblem or sticker on produce perhaps “An ethical treatment of humans code” as ridiculous as that is I would be willing to pay more if I know I am not adding to the problem.
I would like to buy my tomatoes at Safeway with no guilt.
We need to define the ‘American Dream’. I think you are confusing it with the ‘Immigrant Dream’. Two very different things I suspect. Personally, I want less government, a solid economy and a safe retirement.
Unless you’re Native American Tom you’re an Immigrant aren’t you?
I would not buy tomatoes by these “bad” companies, but not for violation of human rights, because they are hiring illegals.
When the argument goes to illegal immigration over and over, resulting in this type of abuse, we have to accept that the legal immigration process is severely broken. Shouldn’t the goal be to fix that? Wouldn’t that help eliminate the slavery option?
We need these people, we need these workers, and we need them to be above board and productive.
How could ANYONE in any country know how their food is produced? I’ve been to grocery stores in every country I have ever travelled to, and the store shows the price, and possibly the origin of the tomato, nothing else, other than if it is organic or not. HOw can the consumer find out from just this if the tomato is from “slave labor”?
If you can’t pay American workers a living wage to pick these crops, the crops should not be grown.
I think the guest is missing the point.
It is illegal immegration that CREATES this “slave” labor problem. This doesn’t mean that the situation is good or acceptable. It simply means that illegal immegration is creating these awful conditions, and ironically (perhaps), also the victim of these conditions.
Corporations and individuals pay the lowest price for a given quality level. To make that price valid and humane, you need to have a viable labor market. Illegal immigration destoys that viable labor market, by introducing large numbers of people willing to work for slave wages and conditions.
People who contribute to a problem cannot expect to dump all of the responsibility on everyone else.
I’d like to ask the WHYS team not to turn each and every youtube video they make into a separate thread. It leads to people having to say the say things over and over again.
It also leads to this subject walking over all others (as if it’s worse than the condition a few billion people in Africa and Asia live in and it’s the most important issue in the world.)
In response to they Moroccan guy who asks why the US doesn’t use its Iraq troops to combat modern slavery. The US are not a police state, unlike Morocco, they have things like due process and the principle of innocent until proven otherwise. So they can’t just lock every suspect up and throw away the key the way Morocco does.
The US already have a police force that can handle slavedrivers once there is evidence against them.
Yes, there is corruption among the judiciary but there will always be some of that and it’s peanuts compared to the Moroccan police.
The only thing that will put an end to these practices is combining harsh sentences for people who hire illegals with spreading the message in Latin America that you’re not gonna get rich easy if you come to America (especially if you have 5 kids and no education) no matter what the soap operas and human-trafficking gangs tell you.
The same message should be spread in Africa about Europe.
If I come across someone who desperately needs my help, and I can do it, I won’t ask if they are here legally before I help. On the other hand, I buy the cheapest tomatoes I can and until recently never thought about where they came from. Most of us are just decent people trying to make it through the day, but I can no longer plead ignorance if I buy cheaper food. But I can’t afford more expensive fruits and vegetables either.
Stacy, don’t let Starbucks fool you. They are major supporters of the apartheid government in Israel. If you value human rights, you need to look a little deeper/
As an American who believes in human rights … getting riled about “illegal migrant workers” coming to the US seems sad in lieu of getting riled about unethical treatment of people who put food on our tables.
For an inside view on just what some of our farm workers lives are like … see David Bacon’s presentation, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.
Hi the issue of immigrants is not limited to America along. Just yeterday, 10/012010 Radio France International reported on the ordeals of African Migrants in the the town of Rosarno, Sourthen Italy where these migrants were been subjected to racially motivated abuses and had to be rescued and relocated else where by the Italian police. It was reported that there were a total of 37 casualties – 19 immigrants and 18 policemen.
The issue of immigrants is among the burning challenges which is threatening the civilization of the world at present and if we are to surmount this problem, we have got to draw lessons from what Pope Benedict XVI said: “An immigrant is a human being, different only in where he comes from, his culture and tradition, “He is a person to respect and with rights and responsibilities, and should be respected particularly in the working world where there is an temptation to exploit.”
I think that “slave labour” is perhaps a misnomer in this context as it is more like indentured labour or forced labour. Indentured labour is when a trafficker charges you a fee that you have to work off to gain entry into a country. Whereas, forced labour is just as the word sounds – you are forced to work for menial wages in harsh conditions. The problem is that these people are stuck in a life of inhumane treatment. Just because they are illegal does not mean that they do not have any human rights.
Historically, speaking the agricultural sector has some of the lowest pay and relies on transient workers who because they are transient do not have any roots in the community. So they are more vulnerable especially if they do not know their rights or the language.
You can go on about prosecuting businesses who hire illegal immigrants all day. But the truth is it will never happen because of:
The enormous profit margin. (Not only for the corporations involved. But also the stockholders).
Many of Obama’s economic advisors are responsible for the global depression. Yet, one year into his term he continues to do nothing about it. So, why would he then go after firms that hire illegals?
If we’re going to actually do something about it, first stop the stupid racial stereotype. All illegals are Mexican, speak Spanish, etc. When was the last time you saw the Irish or Canadian illegals here on the MSM? Since the number is smaller, do we instantly say they don’t exist? Which is going to get a politician elected?
Gosh, illegally imported workers are being mistreated in slave like conditions in a Conservative Republican Southern State.
Just try and imagine my surprise.
There is a big difference between what one says and what one does.
The United States of America has perpetuated a huge myth around the World. There is a myth that this country was founded on equality for all. It is written in US history books and it was repeated several times on today’s radio show.
The reality of the history in the USA is that this country was founded on invading other’s people’s land and then enslaving Africans. Woman, whether white, Black, Native American, rich or poor were not considered equal. White men with no land were also not considered equal.
So it is a huge myth and lie to say the United States was founded on equality. It wasn’t founded on equality and continues to not be a country based on equality.
With this correct and truthful reframing of US history, we informed listeners can see that the slavery of farmworkers and inhumane miserable wages payed to farmworkers in the USA, is a continuation of the shameful practices of a country which has not resolved its past.
Workers like Antonio, who escaped slavery, are courageous people falling in line with the legacy of people like Harriet Tubman who fought for justice and human rights. The CIW is doing the work that the US Justice Department, the Department of Labor, the United Nations, US Congress and many other governing bodies are not doing: defending the Human Rights of Human Beings!
Injustice is illegal, not human beings!
We didn’t cross the boarders, the boarders crossed us.
America’s motto is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” – notice how equality is left out of the motto. My point is that America has changed since it’s inception and now equality has been built into the system.
Democracy is a project that needs continual revision and social action. In this case of the agricultural workers and illegal immigrants they are exploited today but that could change tomorrow.
Social change is work but I don’t think that it is fair to just blame America’s history for the wrongs of today. Things have changed and they continue to change. Formal slavery no longer exists, women are enfranchised, and minorities continue to fight for their rights.
It is a shame that so much information was left out tin this discussion. The issue is much more complex than what was presented. The crew chief system, that of an intermediary between worker and employer, is a big part of the problem of exploited farm workers. The employer uses this intermediary to supply the workers needed to pick the crop. Documents of the worker are provided. The employer issues checks to the worker for the work he does. Taxes are paid. The crew chief can then cash the checks and keep what he wants, if he is crooked, or if not, he gives the workers their full check amount. He is paid separately for his work by the employer, by the way. Some crew chiefs are also those who bring the workers here, house them and thus, control them. Most are not. The employer needs the crop picked in order to do his business, sell his product and deliver for the consumer. He ususally does not speak the language of the workers (and I wager it is the same in Italy with the Africans) and thus the middle man florishes. Some are bad and others are not. The bad ones cause the problems. The other reality is that the consumer wants the product at the cheapest price – we in the USA pay the least amount of our income for food of any industrialized nation. Shame on us. When discussing slavery, I hope we all realize that the sweat shops producing our clothing etc. and prostitution businesses are all much more involved here than agriculture.
The disgusting comments above reflect the low level of discourse (aided and abetted by the host’s own obvious inclinations) to which the program was dragged. What was ostensibly a program about forced labor in the agricultural industry (which, as CIW representatives, Doug Molloy, and — if he had been allowed to speak — Detective Charlie Frost point out, happens to farmworkers regardless of citizenship status, with 2 of the last 7 cases involving exclusively US citizens), turned into a Jerry Springer-esque circus entertaining the most neanderthal, racist comments from listeners and dismissing any attempt to elevate the discourse and talk about the root causes of modern-day slavery: the everyday degradation, poverty, and powerlessness faced by farmworkers in an industry that, as a whole, has never respected their human rights, from African slaves to poor whites to sharecroppers to immigrant workers. Shame on the BBC and on the pompous host of this program. Today I lost a lot of respect for the BBC.
Hi Amikar. I’ll leave aside the straight rudeness of your comment and stick to the points you make about the content of the show. Anyone on any edition of WHYS expecting to get a free hit is going to be disappointed.
The show was never going to be an hour of the CIW and their supporters talking amongst themselves and essentially agreeing with each other. Not that we have any issue with the CIW, it’s just we’d never set up a programme like that.
one CIW member claimed after the show that we were deliberately picking out comment from ‘the bottom feeders’ to spike the discussion. that just isn’t the case. what we read out on air was representative. it also sums up the dismissive attitude some of our guests demonstrated towards any other opinion than their own. that’s fine by us, but it doesn’tmean we’re going to go along with such a belief.
and as for the issue of the detective not getting on air. we were delighted he came down. he put up his hand with less than ten minutes to go. he was next to be spoken to, but i chose to hear from martin (the man who’d experienced forced labour) one last time.
we came to immokalee to hear first hand accounts. through nobody’s fault, martin was one of the only people to be able to give us that. i make no apologies for making a point of hearing from him. it had nothing to do with the detective. i would love to have heard him contribute.
for the record douglas malloy came up to me at the end, and thanked us for taking on the story and for the way we discussed it.
whys isn’t about taking a position – it’s about representing opinion. and we’ll respect all people’s right to express their opinion (unsavoury as that can sometimes be).
thanks for your interest anyway. ros
Ros and WHYS,
I don’t know why your show on this topic is getting so much “heat” from listeners. I for one would like to say, “Thank you”, for actually covering this topic. This is the first time EVER hearing of forced labour in Florida and I listen to many different news networks in three Countries(Canada, UK, and US).
You did a good job of balancing opinion and that is what the WHYS is all about as you stated earlier.
Could not find the story on the use of nitrates or losing money. In this day and age there are options granted they may have to settle for a bit less profit but we ail win by having a planet for a few years more.. I am a professional at marginal profit business’s . Good guys may finish last but they finish happy.
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