Washington Post: Migrant Labor Spreads Coronavirus

FLORIDA CITY, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms on February 6, 2013 in Florida City, Florida. The United States government and Mexico reached a tentative agreement that would go into effect around March 4th, on cross-border …
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Low-wage migrant farm workers are spreading coronavirus through the southeast United States, so the fix is more testing and medical care, but not more labor-saving automation, according to the Washington Post.

Laura Reiley reported for the Post:

The agricultural community of Immokalee is quickly becoming an epicenter of coronavirus cases in Florida, with the state health department’s dashboard showing a large cluster of cases with nearly 900 recorded since April. And as workers move north to work the summer fields in other parts of the country, advocacy groups worry they will take the virus with them.

As of Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection reported 899 positive cases out of roughly 2,500 tests conducted in the Immokalee Zip code. That is a 36 percent positive rate, far higher than the 5.58 percent positive rate for those tested in Florida overall and much higher than wealthier areas of Collier County.

The farm workers are a mix of illegal and unskilled immigrants and Americans. Farm companies hire them because they work hard, but also because they accept very low wages.

This government-delivered supply of archaic stoop labor means that farm companies do not have to invest in labor-saving machines and hygienic automation, even as they are facing growing competition from automated foreign harvesting.

In other states and countries, farm employers buy labor-saving machines to keep their workers and to stay ahead of their competition.

The Washington Post’s focus on testing is expected, said Mark Krikorian, the director of the Center of Immigration Studies. He continued:

The mantra of testing is just the escape hatch of the day to avoid addressing the harmful issue of our dependence on imported labor. In different circumstances, they’d be grasping at something else. Because whatever it is, it can’t be immigration. This leads to cognitive dissonance [because] immigration must always for everyone be good. If you acknowledge there are downsides [to immigration], you are committing blasphemy [because] open borders is part of the progressive religion. It is like [a Christian] saying, “I don’t believe in the Trinity.”

The Washington Post author recognized that more testing is not a fix.

For example, she quoted Kristine Hollingsworth, a spokeswoman for the county’s health department, saying:

There’s a powerful incentive for many growers to demand workers stay on the job, as well as for workers to keep working even after a positive diagnosis. “We can’t pay them or supplement their income,” she said. “We’re trying to tackle those hurdles, but we know people want to provide for their families, often sending money back to support people where they are from.”

One consequence of this elite tolerance for farmers’ use of migrant stoop labor is that Democrats and progressives also tolerate the terrible conditions which allow China’s coronavirus to spread among the hard-working, close-packed migrants.

The Washington Post‘s report sketched the terrible conditions:

Latino and Haitian migrant workers board early-morning school buses or hop into the roll-up backs of U-Haul trailers to reach the fields. They work side by side hand-harvesting mostly round green tomatoes that are later gassed with ethylene to ripen them. At the end of the day, workers hop back in those buses and trucks to head home to retrofitted trailer parks often owned by the growers, with between six and 16 workers bedding down in bunk beds and mattresses on the floor in single-wide trailers meant to be one-bedroom homes.

The article also described a farmworker who has lived her life in poverty in the United States:

Gloria Carrera, 43, a tomato picker for Pacific Tomato Growers in Immokalee for the past 20 years, said in the past week she has seen many of her friends and co-workers leave for farms farther north.

Originally from Santa Cruz Bay in Oaxaca, Mexico, she said she is staying put, trying to stay healthy and to protect the health of her two kids, ages 9 and 16. But it’s not easy and she’s scared. She lives in a trailer with nine people total, some of them friends she has known for a while, some of them strangers.

The Post‘s story about the Florida fieldworkers echoes many reports about the nation’s meatpacking plants.

Employers have been able to avoid buying high-tech, hygienic meat-processing machines because the government provides them with an endless supply of cheap labor, amid quiet cheerleading by Democratic progressives and GOP business-advocates.

Amid the rationalizations and excuses, Krikorian spoke freely.

Progressives “cannot disenthrall themselves from the religion of open borders, so they’re coming up with increasingly implausible explanations and fixes,” he said. “At some point, somebody has to realize this is BS.”


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