Wednesday, October 8, 2008

September Delegation to Migrant Workers

On September 21, I and three others participated in another Rural & Migrant Ministry visit to migrant workers in in Orleans County. they work on the muck farms planting and harvesting onions, potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables. We learned a great deal about the life and struggles of these workers. Most disturbing was the story of a mother of ten month baby. She has been fitted with an ankle bracelet while she waits for her adjudication and deportation back to Mexico. Her son was born in the U.S. and thus is a U.S. citizen. When she is deported, she cannot take him with her immediately. Eventually he too will be sent to Mexico but there will be, apparently by law, a period of separation.

On this trip, we also met two married couples who left their children in Mexico and came to work in the fields here. One mother talked about her four children, one of whom was only two when she left three years ago. Her story and others point up the desperate conditions they face at home. How bad would things have to be for me to choose to leave my young children as the better of terrible options I would face. it is inconceivable to me and most Americans. Our country needs to do whatever we can to assist Mexico in improving living and working conditions for these rural workers. To the extent that NAFTA has made conditions more difficult for farm workers in Mexico, it has created conditions that drive immigration to the U.S. Building a wall and increasing "border security" is no match for underlying economic conditions that causes parents to make such awful choices.

In a very small building that has housed as many as 25 workers in some seasons, we found some remarkable art in one of the bedrooms. The workers living there this season had left that morning to journey to Florida as the season here comes to an end. The three female figures are actually angels. You can see wings. Although hard to see in the photo, each figure had a halo as well. At some point, all the walls in the room were covered with drawings and poetry.

The drawing of Jesus is particularly interesting because it includes the well known Serenity prayer in Spanish. Even in the midst of this barely tolerable living condition, artistic expression provides a sense of hope and beauty.

View more pictures of this delegation.

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