Things That Matter

We Are Loving The Respect And Credit These Grads Are Giving Their Farm Working Parents For Their Sacrifices To Give Their Kids The World

Graduation ceremonies are a little slice of life and society. Behind every cap and stole there are stories of heroism and struggle not only involving the graduates but often having to do with their parents. Moms and dads all over the world have done their best to see their children enjoy better opportunities in life. As the value of labor has shifted from privileging manual work and trades to giving more to those who work with information, traditional occupations such as farming have been affected by a decline in wages and by the crushing shadow of big companies (nowadays it is very hard for any farmer to subsist on their own). That is why stories that involve farmer parents seeing their kids graduate from university are so inspiring. If you have worked in the fields as a picker or even if you have done some gardening under the blistering sun you know how much of a toll working in a field can take on your body. If you haven’t, look to a father’s or uncle’s or Abuelo’s hands and focus on the callous surface that endless hours of working with la tierra has done to the skin. Every wrinkle tells a story of survival and proud trabajo

In honor of farmers worldwide, and to celebrate Farm Workers Day, we have chosen some inspirational snippets of life featuring graduates and their farmer parents, who worked with their hands so their offspring’s mind could thrive. There are not enough ways to say gracias, are there? 

This graduate who honors her farmer parents

Credit: Twitter. @UCMerced

Merced Anna Ocegueda is a Latina college senior who graduated from University of California, Merced, earlier this year. This 22-year-old psychology major posted this picture on Twitter. As they say, una imagen dice + que mil palabras. Her parents are still wearing their picking equipment. Her post went viral and soon newspapers started knocking in the door. Ocegueda told The Fresno Bee: “My parents came here for a better future and a better life for their children. “The educational opportunities weren’t great. My parents encouraged me to better my education so I wouldn’t have to work in the fields like them.” 

For Selena Huapilla-Perez graduation she dressed up in her cap and gown and posed in the fruit fields alongside her parents to honor their sacrifice as farmers. ⁣

@SelenaHuapilla

In a post about her gruadtion, Huapilla said “I always tell my parents, my sisters and brother that this belongs more to them than to me.” This year she graduated with a degree in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Michigan State University. ⁣

This recent grad went above and beyond to make her dreams come true, thanks to her hard work, and her parent’s struggles.

@alfaroerica47b | Instagram

Erica Alfaro, a 29-year-old, dedicated her master’s degree with her parents and celebrated with a powerful photoshoot where they work.

This Brazilian queen who thanked her farmer parents during her graduation ceremony

Credit: YouTube. @AlamedaCasaEditorial

It is a moment worthy of a few tears. A Brazilian student stops the party, descends the stairs and calls her parents. Everyone claps. They all know that her family is de origen humilde and that they have moved Heaven and Earth for her to be there. You can watch this tender and empowering moment here

Farmer parents sure teach some good ethics and excellent saving skills

Credit: Twitter. @KillerPunchZero

If precarious conditions can teach you anything is that you gotta take care of what you got. Farming is such a serendipitous occupation (a flood or a tornado can wipe out the years harvest and any earnings for the coming months, as many farmers have recently experienced throughout our climate-change-stricken planet), that those que trabajan en el campo know that life is better with no debt. What a great lesson. Hard work, dedication. 

De tal palo tal astilla

Credit: Twitter. @BigDuce79

So who is proud of who? The farmer father who sent his son to college or the son whose father sent him? Well, it is both. Struggle can either bring people closer together or split them apart. We hope it is always the latter. 

Can you spare a minute and read this amazing story?

Credit: Facebook. Humans of Bombay

India is a country where social mobility is almost impossible. Many regions of the Southeast Asian country still live under a caste system that basically translates in zero opportunities for those who are born with nothing or with very little. That is why this story from the amazing storytelling collective Humans of Bombay is so powerful. It is the story of a father who had to migrate to the city from his farming village. There, he leads a simple life but makes sure his son goes to university. The son’s attitude will melt your heart. Does the story sound familiar? We are sure it resonates with many Latino families across the United States. 

The son of a Filipino farmer who got a full scholarship at Harvard

Credit: filipino-farmer-son-gets-full-scholarship-from-harvard-university-proves-hard-work-beats-fate-2.jpg. Digital image. The Development Times

The Philippines is one of the most unequal countries in the world, an impoverished nation that up until today has failed to keep up with other Asian economies. As much as 15% of Filipinos work overseas as domestic workers or construction workers. Those who live in the country need to work extra hard just to make ends meet. So the story of Romnick Blanco, the son of a rice and vegetable farmer, is the stuff that dreams are made of. He received a full scholarship to study at Harvard after excelling at his high school in Manila. By the way, he had to cross a river every single day to go to school

Credit: q2-5. Digital image. Readers Portal.

His father was a cocoa farmer and his mother sold coal, he is now a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania

 
Credit: IMG_20180419_173741. Digital image. Savannah News Online

Conditions for farmers in Africa are tough, as multinational corporations pay low wages for prices products such as cocoa.  Shadrack Osei Frimpong is a Ghanian dynamo who excelled at school and made his way to the United States. He is now giving back to his community, establishing a tuition-free girls’ school in his village. What an inspiring young man. Those who succeed despite a tough beginning are often the most generous and amazing human beings. African youth face many challenges, including guerrilla warfare, human trafficking and disease, so it is amazing to see ow someone from a rural area could actually work towards better conditions not only for himself, but for his whole community. 

Last but not least, this Indonesian son of farmers who graduated from Columbia University in New York City

Credit: 10.-Graduation-S2-1. Digital Image. Mengglobal Indonesia

Robinson Sinurat is the fifth child of a family of seven. His parents did not finish their schooling because of financial struggles, so the odds were stacked against Robinson. He knew that he wanted to study physics, so he borrowed money from a friend to pay for university fees in Indonesia and ate only once a day. After graduating from college he worked in an NGO in the capital city of Jakarta, where he started studying English to apply for graduate school. His academic and professional accomplishments caught the eye of Columbia… and the rest, as they say, is history. You can read all about his improbable journey here.

This hombre hermoso from Thailand whose dirty clothes speak of a tough life

Credit: Facebook. @Chesney O’Donnell

The contrast is striking. This Thai farmer almost looks shy in front of the camera. The moraleja is clear: be very, very thankful for everything that your parents have done for you. 

The House Just Introduced A Bipartisan Plan To Help Undocumented Farmworkers But Will The White House Support It?

Things That Matter

The House Just Introduced A Bipartisan Plan To Help Undocumented Farmworkers But Will The White House Support It?

Gus Ruelas / AP

The United States’ agricultural business is largely ran on the back of undocumented foreign labor. In fact, more than 50% of those employed in agriculture are undocumented. That means there are more than a million people living in the shadows but who a vital part of delivering food to American households.

Not only do they live in the shadows for fear of deportation but many are even too afraid to access much needed healthcare or to speak out against employee abuse.

To help address these very real concerns, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been quietly working out the details of a bill that could help.

The bipartisan bill was announced on Wednesday and may actually have a chance at being passed.

Lawmakers have struck a deal that would give legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrant farmworkers in exchange for stronger employee verification in the agricultural sector.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, who chairs the immigration subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, led negotiations on the deal with Republican Reps. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale (Butte County) and Dan Newhouse of Washington state.

“The men and women who work America’s farms feed the nation. But, farmworkers across the country are living and working with uncertainty and fear, contributing to the destabilization of farms across the nation,” Lofgren said in a statement. “Our bill offers stability for American farms.”

If it passes the House, the bill still faces an uncertain future in the Senate. It’s also unclear whether President Trump will back it.

However, the bill would face a more uncertain fate in the Republican-controlled Senate.

If 20 Republicans are willing to put their names on the effort, it could show the reach of interest from the GOP side of the aisle to address a very specific portion of the immigrant workforce that is crucial to many of their districts’ economies.

In addition to Diaz-Balart’s participation in negotiations, another Republican at the table has been Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington, according to two congressional sources.

The bill could offer hope to more than a million people across the US.

Hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers already in California could be eligible to get on a path to citizenship if the bill becomes law, and employers would be able to take advantage of the reformed visa process to hire new foreign workers legally.

If the bill can pass the House, one supporter in the Senate will be California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She said in a statement provided to The Chronicle that she will work to try to pass the legislation in the upper chamber.

“Our broken immigration system has created shortages of farm labor across California and the rest of our country,” Feinstein said. “This bipartisan bill will fix that and bring farmworkers out of the shadows. It’s time we give farmers the help they need while protecting the hardworking people who put food on our tables.”

United Farm Workers, the union that represents agricultural workers, has come out in support of the bill.

According to a summary of the bill obtained by McClatchy, the so-called Farm Workforce Modernization Act would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who have already been working in the farm and agriculture industry for at least two years and plan to continue in this sector. 

It would make changes to the H2-A visa program, which farmers use to hire foreign nationals for seasonal agriculture work, to make it easier for employers to fill crucial workforce gaps while providing more protections for the workers themselves.

And as a sweetener for immigration hardliners, the measure would make E-Verify — the web-based system that allows businesses to confirm whether their employees are eligible to work in the United States — mandatory for the agriculture sector.

However, because of the expansion of the E-Verify system not everyone is on-board with the legislation.

“We are opposed to E-Verify in principle but as part of a compromise for legalization and more workers, it’d be a sacrifice worth making,” said Cato policy analyst David Bier. Bier said he had heard that “a bipartisan group is close to a deal” on the proposal.

Some farmworker advocates are lobbying to grant farmworkers legal status without requiring future E-Verify checks, while some Republicans want mandatory E-Verify use without granting legal status to any current workers.

A position paper from the Farm Bureau last year said the group would consider mandatory E-Verify in exchange for granting legal status to current workers and a better guest-worker visa program.

The Daughter Of Farmworkers Wins $100K Prize To Help Her Community

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The Daughter Of Farmworkers Wins $100K Prize To Help Her Community

Maria Blancas / YouTube

Maria Blancas grew up the child of farmworkers and saw the impacts of their work in real-time. She even worked on farms when she was in high school picking apples and onion seeds. It wasn’t until she got to college that she realized how little people truly understood about her community and their lives. So, she dedicated her studies to the lives and conditions of farmworkers and it paid off.

Maria Blancas is a Ph.D student at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Credit: @NinaShapiro / Twitter

Blancas grew up with migrant farmworker parents from Mexico. She helped on the farms and watched as the other farmworkers dealt with the physical nature of the job. However, in her undergraduate years, according to The Seattle Times, Blancas realized people had oversimplified the lives and struggles of the people she was working with.

Blancas has dedicated her education to improve the lives of her family and all others working in the fields.

Credit: @UWEnvironment / Twitter

According to The Seattle Times, Blancas wants to change the narrative around what is happening to the farmworkers’ community. Her aim is to create a fuller and more in-depth picture of the lives and “issues” within the community as the work in the fields.

Her work so far won her a $100,000 prize from the Bullitt Foundation to focus on furthering her work.

Credit: seattletimes / Twitter

The Bullitt Foundation aims to “safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest,” according to the website.

In that effort, the foundation is giving Blancas a significant grant to allow her to focus on her work.

“When people ask me why I do the work that I do,” Blancas told The Seattle Times. “I always think about my family: mi familia.”

The Bullitt Prize is different than most awards and prizes.

Credit: @UWBridgesCenter / Twitter

Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes told The Seattle Times that the prize a “reverse Nobel Peace Prize” in that it doesn’t reward people on their overall work. Instead, the foundation looks for people with potential and awards them at the early stages of their careers based on where their work could go.

Blancas has already done work within her community by surveying the community during her time working at the local community college.

The Seattle Times reports that Blancas noticed that some people would go to her community and conduct studies of the workers. However, the groups would leave and never share the results. So, Blancas teamed up with other researchers and did a survey of 350 farmworkers from Whatcom and Skagit to see what was happening, who they were, and what they needed.

Blancas and the team compiled the results of the study, called “Nothing About Us Without Us,” and shared them in a video.

The team discovered that “40 percent of the workers identified as indigenous peoples, mostly from Mexico, and about a quarter couldn’t read Spanish. Its findings, in keeping with academic conventions, quantified problems: 40 percent said they didn’t always have regular breaks, 20 percent lacked consistent access to water, and 60 percent hadn’t seen a doctor in the past year.”

Blancas is planning a dissertation that will incorporate video of farmworker testimonials.

Blancas will be hosting a workshop to teach farmworkers how to create the videos for the dissertation.

READ: A New Documentary Is Shedding Light On The Labor Organizer Who Fought For Farmworkers Before Dolores Huerta