Mexican Migrant Workers: Dying to Work
Mexican Migrant Workers: Dying to Work
Rebekah RosasFor hundreds of years, Mexican immigrants have been coming to the United States in order to find work. Agriculture has been a main venue for these workers. They come Stateside when the crops come in, and often move from state to state as each plant is ready to harvest. For this reason they are called migrant workers. "Migrant farm workers travel north during the growing season, following the crops, or travel back and forth from home bases in Florida, Texas, California, and Mexico." (1)
Not only do migrant workers face innumerable hardships such as low wages, unacceptable housing, and lack of health care, yet to make matters worse, Mexican farm laborers are faced with the complete lack of regard of their lives as human beings. Day after day, the laborers are forced to work in conditions that put their lives in peril. Farm workers spend hour after hour in immediate contact with crops that have been profusely sprayed with pesticides. Many Americans believe that the United States is working to make our environment more "health-friendly" by using less toxic pesticides, however, pesticides are still used to attack organisms, such as insects and bacteria, yet, when workers are in close proximity with these pesticides, they begin to demonstrate dangerous effects in the form of illness. In fact, "Despite tougher regulations, the U.S. is no exception when it comes to endangering workers' lives with pesticide use. Over one billion pounds of pesticide active ingredients are used in the U.S. each year, 80% of which are used in agriculture."(2) Although there is a push to move to more organic farming techniques, there are still many laborers who work on farms that use pesticides. In reality, "80% of the indigenous people [of Mexico] that live in this country work in the fields where pesticides are sprayed."(2)
The effects of working with these harmful pesticides are quite extensive. Minor symptoms include "dizziness, headaches, weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive perspiration, blurry vision, chest pains, breathing difficulties, watery eyes, nose and mouth, muscle pains and cramps."(2) Beyond these minor symptoms, there have also been higher cases of cancer within the migrant worker community in both children and adults. Research states that "exposure to pesticides causes an increase in cancer in migrant workers as compared to the general population. Migrant workers exhibit an increase in cancer, particularly in the mouth and pharynx."(1) Besides cancers, there are many other diseases that migrant workers face. "The exposure to agricultural chemicals is being studied in relation to increases in neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and risk of cleft palate."(1)
For children, the risk is even higher, as not only are they exposed to the dangers of pesticides, but they are also born with the toxins in their systems, as their mothers worked in the fields while they were in the womb. "Pesticide exposure may be more severe for children than adults because of their smaller body mass and their different metabolisms."(1) In addition, these toxins act on a child's life from the time they are in the womb. "Exposure to pesticides during and post pregnancy may have long term effects such as neurological damage or birth defects in children. The brain, skeleton, thyroid, and immune system are potential targets of chemicals that cause endocrine damage."(1) Pesticides have even been linked to "much higher than normal rates of leukemia" in children of migrant workers. If a child is "lucky" enough to avoid physical disablements, they might not be so "lucky" in avoiding disorders with their brains. "Chemical exposure may cause developmental disorders, learning disabilities, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, and other anomalies that interfere with cognitive abilities."(1) Basically, children of migrant laborers, who often work on the farms themselves, are bound to come out of the fields with some type of physical disadvantage that their non-laborer counterparts do not have to endure.
As informed citizens, we must ask ourselves what can do to remedy this situation? We need to fight for more organic farming even though it will cost the consumer more. However, not only will organic farming be better for us, the consumer, but also the workers who have to deal with the food as their livelihood. Also, we can support organizations such as the United Farm Workers. We can donate money and lobby with them. They can be easily accessed by their website: http://www.ufw.org/. All in all, we need to become more conscious of the world around us and what we can do to help our fellow man.
11/05/2005, from a Reader on the Web
Mexican Migrant Workers: Dying to work! Give me a break! Illegal immigration is up to 20,000 aliens caught on average each week....You did not mention the failure of NAFTA....you also did not mention the reason migrants really do these jobs....to support their families abroad.....also, the average american citizen abhors this type of work....but, we also have the biggest failure of all...The Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act....aren't they in charge of fining these employers who knowingly hire these illegal aliens.... ...here's the loophole....employers are not allowed to acknowledge false documents!!!! But if you really want to see the forrest for the trees Ms. Rosas think about this....for the past several decades all the monies collected for social security from these illegal aliens will never be acknowledged publicly...they won't see a cent...they are directly responsible for keepint social security afloat!!! Your solution is admirable but extremly way off the mark!!!! Come see me and I'll educate you...something you're lacking in!!!
In Spanish class we are talking about migrant workers and my teacher has them work for her, but they don't work in fields or anything. Anyway, it's interesting to see what they really go through and it makes Americans kind of look bad I think because we are so lazy. Not always but honestly would we go through all that work to get here and then work in conditions like that? No, we'd be like "I'm out." and get welfare or something. I really feel that these guys deserve a break, and it's not like they are illegal so that doesn't have anything to do with it. Plus, they really only do the jobs we WON'T do. I mean, do you know anyone who's been fired because a migrant worker took his place? Didn't think so... Anyway, the article was very good and enlightening ... Jessie, 20 April 2006
Dear friends in the United States....
We are Mexican women from villages in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero.
Our brothers and husbands have left us for work in the US.
We strongly support closing the US-Mexico border to illegal entry.
We did not want our men to leave and we want them to return to us.
As we struggle as women, against the difficulty of our situation,
we focus all effort on building a business to sustain ourselves and our children.
But we need the help of our husbands and our brothers
to re-unite our families and to help us develop economic opportunity
in the traditional fashion jewelry production industry that is the heritage of our parents.
Please close the US Border to illegal migration and send our men home to us. Thank you.
Best wishes from Mexico to all persons of good will.
We should continue to be friends and respect each other.
Atentamente ... Eusebia Flores, 21 April 2006
People will do what they need to do to eat. Its human instinct for survival. Some people lay on their ass have kids collect welfare sell drugs etc. THE REAL PROBLEM IS OUR WELFARE SYSTEM. End the welfare system and you end most of this problem. We are attracting people to come to this country because we offer welfare not only to them BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY to people that are already living here as ( disgruntled) citizens who collect WELFARE and are told by their leaders that they deserve this welfare. This creates the enviroment that the taxpayers are fools. Well, they are. It then leads to a weakend foundation of capitalistic values. Capitalism is merely the free trade of goods for a price that people are willing to pay. That very simplicty leads to freedom. The welfare system is of socialist origin that tells you that peoples rights are not as important as government control. It is that government control that leads to the "immorality" that leads to a disrespect of law. One of those laws being the illegal crossing of the border but as I stated, MORE IMPORTATNLY, a welfare system. If we were only concerned with helping people that really needed help then the charitable organizations would be doing their stated job and taking care of people on a local level. But the government is more concerned with having people dependant on them the government as opposed to themselves or others who WANT to help not forced via the welfare system. That all leads back to illegal immigration and its enormous problems ... DD, 15 October 2006
"dizziness, headaches, weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive perspiration, blurry vision, chest pains, breathing difficulties, watery eyes, nose and mouth, muscle pains and cramps." ---- These symptoms seem like the exact symptoms of anyone working anywhere in the heat of the summer... Pesticides or No Pesticides ... Reader on the web, 27 November 2007