illegal migrant workers

Illegal Dairy Workers



hotbed intense controversial
rely shift (2) enforcement
chance manure monotonous
recruit harvest entry-level
custom customs detention
quota on edge make sure
irate prospect foreseeable
deport handful efficient
fund pretend competitive
poll squeegee crosshair
bucket round up retribution
crucial incentive legitimate





So I’m here at a dairy farm in New York . . . and I’m learning how to milk cows.

Journalist: “Oh f _ _ _! I just got s _ _ _ all over me!”

The smell right here is pretty intense.

Mexican Dairy Worker: “The country needs Mexicans.
Roy Germano: “Because without Mexicans, we don’t have milk, right?
Mexican Dairy Worker: “Yeah, exactly. Americans do other jobs; but the hard jobs; only Mexicans do them.”

When we think of immigration being a controversial issue, we usually think of places like Arizona and Texas, but actually, New York State has become such a hotbed for immigration enforcement.

And the main reason is that agriculture and dairy farms rely on immigrant labor so much.

Immigrants play a crucial role in the American food production system. Chances are, the food you ate today was planted, harvested and packed by workers who were born in Mexico and Central America.

Dairy is no exception.

Milking cows is a dirty, monotonous job that not a lot of Americans want to do. So most US dairy farms rely on foreigners to fill entry-level positions and overnight shifts.

The problem is dairy farms don’t have a way to recruit immigrant workers legally because the government doesn’t allow them to participate in the H-2A Agricultural Guest Worker Program.

That program is for seasonal farmwork only — not year-round work like milking.

So since they can’t get workers legally, most dairy farms hire immigrants illegally.

Congress’s refusal to create a guest-workers’ program for dairy, has New York dairy farmers on edge.

New York State is the country’s top producer of Greek yogurt and the third biggest producer of milk.

But right in the middle of the state’s most important dairy producing region is one of the largest immigrant detention facilities outside of Arizona.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE as the agency is known, and the border patrol agents who work along the sleepy US-Canadian border, have made it their mission to make sure that facility’s beds stay full.

And all the undocumented farm workers in the area make for an easy way to fill their quotas.

Dairy farmers near the immigrant detention facility are irate.

With prospects for immigration reform dead for the foreseeable future, they constantly worry that their workers will be deported; and they won’t have enough people to keep their cows milked, adding another layer of uncertainty to an already uncertain business.

We went to Upstate New York, to try to understand the cat and mouse game that’s going on between dairy farms and immigration authorities — a game that we as taxpayers fund.

The first thing I wanted to know is whether there’s actually any truth to farmers claim they can’t find enough Americans to do entry level milking work.

So I decided to conduct a little experiment outside an unemployment office, just a few minutes drive outside the immigration detention center and a handful of dairy farms.

Journalist: “Excuse me, you all looking for work? I’m trying to do a little poll. Are you looking for work, right now?”
Unemployed Person One: “Yeah.”
Journalist: “Would you be interested in working on a dairy farm, by any chance?”
Unemployed Person One: “For milking or something like that?”
Journalist: “Yeah, a milking parlor.”
“From what time to what time?”
“Two a.m. to noon.”
“Wow. That’s a long shift in the middle of the night.”

Unemployed Person Two: “Two a.m. I don’t know if I could do it.”
Unemployed Person Three: “No. Not at all.”

Journalist: “Would you be interested in working on a dairy farm, by any chance?”
Unemployed Person Four: “No thank you.”
UP5: “Not right now.”
UP6: “It’s not my kind of job.”
UP7: “I don’t know about the farm animals.”
UP8: “I did that when I was younger and I don’t want to do that again.”
UP9: “I’m a little skeptical of them kicking and stuff.”
UP10: “Just messy and I’m at an age where I don’t want to do that anymore.”
UP11: “I’m surprised that they don’t get a s _ _ _ load of Mexicans will to do that, huh? Did they ship them all back to Mexico?”

Journalist: “Hey guys. Can I ask you a quick question?”
UP12: “I don’t speak a lot, but . . .”
Journalist: “Do you speak Spanish?” (in Spanish). I wanted to ask you if you’d want to work at a dairy farm. It pays about $9 an hour plus housing.”
UP13: “Yeah, if there’s work to do, I’ll start right now.”
Journalist: “Yeah? Where are you from?”
UP14: “I’m from Puerto Rico.”

These unemployed Americans’ largely negative reaction to the idea of milking had me curious.

So I found a farm that would let me work on it — as long as I didn’t reveal it’s name and location because it hires unauthorized workers and doesn’t want to be targeted by ICE.

Journalist: “Let’s pretend I’m a new employee.”

When I arrived, I quickly realized that I had to forget about the romantic image of the old farmer milking a single cow into a bucket.

Dairy farms these days, even family-owned, have to be big and efficient, in order to stay competitive.

Twenty-four-hours a day, 365 days a year, hundreds, if not thousands of cows, are herded into rooms like this one, to be hooked up to machines that pump the milk out.

Journalist: “Have you ever got hit because they are so nervous?”
Mexican Dairy Worker: “Yes, here, in the chest — in the face.”

Workers get kicked, get s _ _ _ on — and they do the same thing over and over again.

So I’ve been doing this for ten minutes so far. And I’d be very happy to be not doing it.

Mexican Dairy Worker: “You want a shower?”

After about six or seven hours of milking hundreds of cows, the entire parlor is cleaned out.

This means using a squeegee to remove all the cow manure from the parlor floor.

There’s a trail of cow manure here . . . that we’re going to sweep down.

Journalist: “All of it?”
Mexican Dairy Worker: “Yeah, all of it must go.”

Mexican Dairy Worker: “The country needs Mexicans.
Roy Germano: “Because without Mexicans, we don’t have milk, right?
Mexican Dairy Worker: “Yeah, exactly. Americans do other jobs; but the hard jobs, only Mexicans do them.”

The guys I worked with that day are good at their jobs. Some had been on the same farm for more than a decade.

But they won’t be working there much longer: many of them are now in the process of being deported because they were rounded up in an ICE raid a few months earlier.

The owner of the farm told me that these guys are like family.

He spoke to us on the condition of anonymity because he fears retribution from immigration authorities for speaking out.

American Dairy Farmer: “I’m tired of the inaction in Washington. We’re trying to run a business, day to day. We’re the ones caught in the crosshairs between the government that makes the laws and the agencies that enforce the laws.

The agencies that enforces them are just doing their jobs. But we’re also trying to run a business, and the government has not given us a way to legitimately way to have a readily accessed source of labor that work on the dairy farm.

So what incentive is there to grow our business when at any given time, all our labor could be taken away.

The Department of Homeland Security refused our repeated request for an interview.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Illegal immigrants in the US only live and work in California, New York City and Texas. Is this right or wrong? Are Mexicans a minor, insignificant part of the agricultural workforce?

2. What is the difference between fruit and vegetable farming and dairy farming, regarding migrant labor?

3. The journalist enjoyed working on a dairy farm for one day. He thought it was a great experience. Yes or no?
Do Americans — especially unemployed people — want to work on a dairy farm? Are they enthusiastic about that? What do they say about working on dairy farms?

4. What is the dairy farmers’ attitude towards undocumented, Hispanic or Latino dairy workers? How do they feel about arrests and deportation of illegal migrants?

5. The main problem for the undocumented, Mexican migrants is discrimination by hostile, local residents. Is this correct or incorrect?

6. Do the immigration officials turn a blind-eye towards undocumented immigrant workers? Is there racial profiling by law enforcement officials? Is everyone stopped and asked to show their ID or documents? Why are they so keen to catch, arrest and deport the illegal migrants?

7. What are some potential solutions to the labor situation on dairy farms? Are they feasible?

8. Is there a tone or bias in the new reporting? Is the journalist and program pro-immigration, anti-immigration, both, neither or neutral,?

A. Who works in agriculture in your country, locals, migrants or both?

B. People are proud to be farmers and farm laborers. Do you agree?

C. Is there much immigration in your city or country?

D. What is the government’s policy towards immigration?

E. Do local residents welcome or resent migrants or are they indifferent?

F. What would happen if there were no immigrants or very strict migration controls?

G. What would happen if there were open borders and work opportunities?

H. What will happen in the future?




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