During the final stop on the “Farmworker Movement: From North to South, East to West,” speakers from the Familias Unidas por la Justicia and The Alianza Agricola educated the community about challenges immigrant farmers face in addition to helping some Cornell students with projects they are currently working on.
The talk was in tandem with the spring course “Migration in the Americas: Engaged Research Methods and Practice,” in which students prepare a project that they can test with farmworkers. The course is the advanced research methods of a fall course devoted to investigating transnational migration patterns.
Students from the class were able to bring their projects to the event to gather feedback from the farmers themselves.
It was an “educational event associated with the course but it was also an opportunity,” said Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell Farmworker program.
Students from the class found the talk to be especially interesting as it helped reinforce what they learned in class.
“I thought it was really interesting especially given the background information of the course,” Barbara Chami ’18 said. “Being in a class that was rather critical we knew about all the challenges but it is hard for us to think of solutions or whether or not projects are helpful.”
Chami also noted that the event instilled a sense of hope in her that the dire problems they learned about in class could be resolved.
“There is a chance of making progress,” Chami said. “The system is not stuck in this destructive format. The farmworkers are working towards something that is achievable.”
The talk focused on the rights and protections of immigrant farmers in the United States. In particular, how advocacy and organization work to strengthen those rights and protections.
Familias Unidas por la Justicia is the only existing union led by over 400 indigenous Mixteco and Triqui farmworkers. It is comprised of independent agricultural workers from Washington State who left home after they couldn’t make a living.
These speakers discussed the union’s work with producers and companies to achieve better conditions for workers, including reducing the use of pesticides in fields and getting breaks while working.
The Alianza Agricola is a grassroots organization that originated in Green Light, New York, and advocates for driver’s licenses for New York’s undocumented immigrants.
In the early 2000s, undocumented immigrants could apply for New York driver’s licenses. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, this program was discontinued.
The audience, comprised of about 65 people, was “quite receptive,” according to Dudley, who noted the successful question and answer period.
“In general, the audience really was there to learn more,” Dudley said. “There weren’t any negative comments. They were really there to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates people to do this.”