Things That Matter

Short Film ‘So Close To America’ Lays Bare The Facts Of Being An Undocumented Farm Worker

Immigrants in the United States have a long history of being the scapegoat during times of uncertainty. Every generation has a group of people that were demonized and dehumanized in a false attempt to better the lives of “Americans.” Currently, immigrants from Latin America are being used as the scapegoat by President Donald Trump as he pushes for his border wall to stop what he claims is a crisis at the border. Despite Trump’s claims, illegal border crossings are at record lows and crime levels in border cities are lower than the national average. Filmmaker Peter Carrs is using his own film “So Close to America” to dispel the hurtful and blatantly false claims of immigration leading to crime.

Peter Carrs’s “So Close to America” is a film demolishing the notion of undocumented immigrants getting a free ride in the U.S.

The film’s full title is “So Close to Ameria: Undocumented Farm Workers & The Myth of ‘The Free Ride'” is an intimate look at the daily lives of immigrant farm workers. The subjects of the documentary are the center of one of the great political debates of the 21st century with both parties fighting on opposite sides of the debate.

In the film, Carrs breaks down the facts about immigration and the impact immigrants have had on the agriculture industry. Carrs’s documentary shows that most of the farm workers are immigrants and anywhere between 50 to 80 percent of them are undocumented.

One fact Carrs tackles is the notion that undocumented immigrants are draining the welfare system.

Credit: SoberalskiLaw / Twitter

According to Vox, about half of all undocumented workers in the U.S. file federal taxes annually. In 2015, undocumented workers made up $23.6 billion paid to the federal government in taxes. Not to mention the taxes spent buying a home, buying gas, buying groceries, etc.

At the same time, undocumented immigrants cannot benefit from any of the social programs their tax dollars pay for. Why? Federal laws prohibit undocumented immigrants from accessing federal welfare programs. However, some of the children of immigrants do have access to some programs, such as healthcare, WIC, and other programs because they are U.S. citizens.

Even for legal immigrants, there is a five-year ban on accessing any kind of government assistance. Trump has tried to “propose” this to the U.S. but the law has been in place since 1996 when Bill Clinton signed the bill. Essentially, anyone claiming that undocumented immigrants are overloading the welfare system is not telling the full and true story.

The basic message of the film is that undocumented farm workers keep our food affordable, boost our economy, and contribute to the U.S. by paying taxes.

“Whether we want to admit it or not, our agricultural system is almost entirely dependent on migrant labor, but specifically undocumented migrant labor,” historian Cody Ferguson says in “So Close to America.” “Undocumented workers, they’re doing some of the hardest work that you can do in the United States. And, as a result of their hard work, we have this incredible, diverse system of agriculture that can provide practically anything we want to eat, whenever we want to eat it, for some of the cheapest prices in the world.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, around 50 percent of the work force making up the farmworkers in the U.S. are undocumented. According to a report in CBS News, certain aspects of the farm economy are more vulnerable to the uncertainty of our immigration policies.

CBS News reports that there is currently no visa program for year-round dairy farm workers, which relies heavily on undocumented and migrant labor. Furthermore, a study commissioned by the dairy industry found that if federal immigration policies removed 50 percent of the dairy farm laborers from the workforce, 3,500 dairy farms will be forced to close.

President Trump’s sustained and amplified attack on immigration, both illegal and legal, could have damaging repercussions for the U.S. economy. The immigration system is complex and difficult to maneuver and is in desperate need of an overhaul. Comprehensive immigration reform is something people support. Several prominent political and cultural leaders have spoken out about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and it’s time we start taking those steps.

READ: Miami Film Festival Cancels Screening of Immigration Doc After ICE Detained The Movie’s Main Character

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This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

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This Migrant Mother Spent Three Years In Church Sanctuary But Now She’s Free

Lawyers are working hard to get a deportation order removed against a woman who just left a church sanctuary after three years in the refuge. Although she was previously denied asylum in the U.S., advocates are hoping that under new direction from the Biden administration, her case will be reviewed and she’ll be able to stay with her family in Ohio – where she’s lived for more than twenty years.

A mother of three is back with her family after living three years inside a church.

A mother of three who sought refugee inside an Ohio church from immigration authorities has finally been able to leave three years later. Edith Espinal, who herself is an immigrant rights advocate, had been living at the Columbus Mennonite Church since October 2017 to avoid being deported to Mexico. She’s now out of the church and back with her family following a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, who have agreed that she’s not an immediate priority for deportation.

“Finally, I can go home,” Espinal told reporters after meeting with the officials. With tears of relief, she celebrated the small victory in the presence of dozens of supporters who accompanied her to the ICE building.

“But it is not the end of her case. We’re still going to have to fight,” her attorney Lizbeth Mateo said.

ICE has agreed to hold off on her deportation proceedings pending her asylum request.

Espinal was released under an order of supervision, meaning that while she’s not considered an immediate priority for deportation, she must periodically check in with ICE officials to inform them about her whereabouts.

She has lived in Columbus for more than two decades and had previously applied for asylum, citing rising violence in her home state of Michoacán. But she eventually was ordered to leave the country, which is when she sought refuge inside the Columbus, Ohio church.

“We’re going to continue pressing the Biden administration to do the right thing, and try to get rid of that order of deportation against Edith, so she can walk freely like everyone else does without fear,” Mateo said during the press conference.

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Coachella Farmworkers Are First In The Nation To Receive ‘Hero Pay’

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Coachella Farmworkers Are First In The Nation To Receive ‘Hero Pay’

Farmworkers in Coachella are the first in the nation to receive “hero pay.” There are hundreds of thousands of farmworkers in California and most are undocumented. Their work throughout the pandemic has kept food on the table for people across the country.

The city of Coachella extended “hero pay” to farmworkers

It is the first city in the nation to extend “hero pay” to farmworkers. According to the LA Times, 8,000 farmworkers live in the Coachella Valley and the ordinance goes into effect immediately. The ordinance gives employees an additional $4 an hour in pay for at least four months.

“We know that COVID has been more prominent in these agricultural communities, and if you look at the mortality rates, a lot of farmworkers have died,” Mayor Steven Hernandez told the LA Times. “You can see the devastation.”

Coachella is also going above and beyond to vaccinate the farmworkers as well.

A UC San Francisco study showed that farmworkers and restaurant workers are at a much higher risk of Covid because of the work they do. As such, the city of Coachella also decided to lead the nation is making sure that the farmworker community is signed up for vaccinations as they become available.

Governor Gavin Newsom highlighted the need to vaccinate farmworkers because of their vulnerability to the virus. Compounding on the issue is that Latinos tend to live in multi-generational houses and work other essential jobs. The risk of spreading the virus to vulnerable people is high within the community and part of the reason the city is rushing to vaccinate farmworkers.

“The heroes we talk about in this pandemic are not just our nurses and doctors, not just our frontline employees … (but also) our grocery store workers, our restaurant workers and our farmworkers,” Gov. Newsom said at a press conference.

People are celebrating Coachella for doing what they can to protect farmworkers.

Farmworkers have been crucial in making sure that grocery stores have been stocked with produce throughout the pandemic. The work done by farmworkers has made life possible for people during one of the hardest and darkest moments in the world. As the nation sheltered in place during the outbreak of Covid, farmworkers joined the ranks of essential workers that kept the economy and life moving.

Coachella’s ordinance comes at a moment when Kroger, a major corporation, shut down locations instead of giving employees “hero pay.”

Cities and states are passing ordinances to increase the pay for certain essential and frontline workers for their bravery. Kroger, which earned more than $121 billion dollars in 2020, chose to close locations rather than pay employees hazard pay for working through a pandemic.

“When large corporations make record profits and double their earnings – they need to share that success with those providing the labor. Period,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted about Kroger, which owns Food 4 Less and Ralph’s among other brands.

READ: Farmworkers Are Testing Positive For Covid-19 At Record Numbers, So What Are Officials Doing To Help?

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