Mar 15, 2021  |  VIEW IN BROWSER


From the Desk of the Executive Director

Daniel Sheehan, AFOP Executive Director

March 8, 2021

With a potential fourth wave of the coronavirus forming, AFOP is doing all it can to see that farmworkers have fair and timely access to the virus’s vaccine.  As anyone who knows farmworkers will concur, agricultural laborers are essential frontline workers.  Unable to work from home, they show up every day to work side by side with little if no personal protective equipment (PPE), only to return to an overcrowded living space following a bus or van ride full of fellow workers.  Ideal conditions for the transmission of the coronavirus disease. 
To help make the case for farmworkers, and immigrants more generally, AFOP joined with other groups late last year in writing to the United States Center on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge that outreach be robustly funded and community-centered; that unnecessary personal information should not be collected or shared; and that it will be clear that no data will be used for immigration enforcement purposes. 
Perhaps most importantly, the letter said frontline and essential workers, regardless of immigration status, should be a priority.  69 percent of immigrants in the U.S. labor force are essential workers who are disproportionately medically vulnerable and underserved.  Failure to ensure that they have equal access to the vaccine would leave a gaping hole in the recovery plan.  Nearly half of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)-eligible population are essential workers; over 500,000 individuals.  Older immigrants who are more susceptible to severe complications or death from COVID-19 often live in multigenerational households with frontline and essential workers.  The letter went on to say that the CDC’s decision to prioritize essential workers broadly for vaccination was an important first step, but the follow through must ensure that distribution is based solely on health considerations and infection rates, not immigration status, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially among communities prone to severe complications or death.
The CDC responded last week encouragingly.  In its letter, the agency said that evidence shows racial and ethnic minority groups—particularly Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, and American Indian or Alaska Native people—are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.  It goes on to say that longstanding systemic health and social inequities have put people within racial and ethnic minority groups—of which immigrants are more likely to be a part—at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.  Inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and health care access, affecting these groups are interrelated and influence a wide range of health and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.
To accelerate progress toward reducing COVID-19 disparities and to advocate for groups at increased risk for the disease, CDC said it has developed a COVID-19 Health Equity Strategy to address health disparities and inequities.  Since the creation of this Strategy, CDC has been working with new and existing partners and grantees to create opportunities to engage directly with communities and then use that information to form new guidance, policy, and programs.  CDC went on to say that its commitment to health equity extends to COVID-19 vaccination access for everyone in the United States. 
While not a solution for the problem of farmworkers lacking access to the vaccine, AFOP finds it heartening that the new administration acknowledges immigrant frontline workers and the dangers they face in turning up for work every day. 
AFOP salutes all the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) grantees for their efforts to support farmworker access to PPE, testing, and vaccinations, while continuing to provide those workers with top-quality training into stable new careers.  NFJP brings hope to those whose labor feeds the people.  A grateful nation must ensure that those who sacrifice so much have a fair chance for a vaccination.  Some states are doing well in this regard, but others are falling down on the job.  That grateful nation must see to it that all states succeed.   
Look here to see what your state is doing. 

Inside AFOP

Florida Non-profits Push to Get Farmworker Access to Vaccine

Farmworker Career Development Program Helps Deliver Masks to Farmworker Community

March 4, 2021

The COVID-19 vaccine is now being offered to police officers and firefighters ages 50 and over and all Florida teachers. Advocates say migrant farm workers should be added to the list of essential workers eligible for the vaccine.
“If they were not able to go to work, fruits and vegetables that we enjoy would not be there, because these are the people that pick the crop,” said Lourdes Villanueva, Director of Farm Worker Advocacy for Redlands Christian Migrant Association.
Florida’s NFJP provider, the Farmworker Career Development Program, gave out masks to farmworkers in Polk County, supporting them at a time of job closings and increased need for PPE.  They also took the opportunity to share about available services with NFJP.
Says FCDP Manager Isabel Leo’n, “All the farmworkers were extremely grateful. Some farm workers didn’t even have masks, they were wearing pieces of clothing as masks and when they received the mask from us, they immediately wore them. Very humble people with big smiles thanking us and said it’s great that there are programs out there helping the farmworkers.”
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Proteus Participant Spurred on by Ambition and Desire to Help Others

Proteus, Inc.

February 18, 2021

Yosmeli Vega had spent her high school summers in the fields of southeastern Iowa, detasseling corn for a few dollars an hour. The funds she earned through this work helped Yosmeli purchase clothes and supplies needed for school. Taking on this type of labor instilled a work ethic in Yosmeli as well as an ambition to accomplish more in her life.
Yosmeli’s guidance counselor at her school in Columbus Junction, Iowa facilitated an introduction between her and a Proteus case manager in hopes of qualifying for the National Farmworker Jobs Program. Yosmeli’s application was quickly processed and soon she was approved for NFJP services.

Upon completion of the program, Yosmeli was offered a position as a Medical Technician at UnityPoint Hospital near Muscatine, IA. With an increased and steady level of income that included full-time benefits, Yosmeli felt she was on the right track.
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MET Provides Emergency Services to Farmworkers during Crippling Winter Storm

Smaller Communities and Apartments Face Biggest Challenges

February 24, 2021

MET, Inc., provided emergency assistance such as food, hygiene products, and blankets to farmworkers, even as their own staff dealt with flooded houses and the loss of power and water.  According to news reports, the once-a-decade winter storm wiped out the power grid for over a week, and thousands of Texans face damage from burst pipes, flooded homes, and continued lack of access to clean drinking water. 

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Latino Farmworkers are Frozen out of Work after Texas Storm

MET Reports Significant Crop Losses and Heavy Toll on Local Farmworkers

NBC News

March 2, 2021

The Arctic air that whipped into Texas last month put this season's Rio Grande Valley harvest on ice, and it has left many farmworkers with no or very little work.  The early loss estimate from the crops alone is $300 million; that doesn't include the ripples to the area's economy, from the impact on other jobs associated with farming to the decrease in spending by farmworkers.

MET, Inc., who also surveyed local employers, reports that the damage to the spinach, onion, and cabbage crop was all but total.  All farm labor contractors are expecting to have less work for farmworkers in the area.

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Farmworker Health & Safety

Thousands of Farmworkers Prioritized for the Coronavirus Vaccine

CHD Lends Hands to the Effort

NY Times
March 1, 2021

A landmark effort is underway across the Coachella Valley to bring the vaccine directly into the fields. Thousands of farm workers are being pulled into pop-up vaccination clinics hosted by growers and run by the county Health Department.
AFOP member California Human Development Corporation was part of these efforts the final weekend of February, hosting the Napa County Mobile Health Clinic at three different sites and enabling 100 farmworkers to get vaccinated.
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To Help Farmworkers Get COVID-19 Tests and Vaccine, Build Trust and a Safety Net

March 1, 2021

In addition to living far from testing sites, farmworkers often lack access to reliable information in their native language and have a general mistrust of the health care system. And missing work to get a test, or to isolate or quarantine, could be financially devastating.  “The norms that we have seen prior to the pandemic — of not prioritizing worker health or just basic safety-net needs — need to be addressed both by state, local, federal governments and employers," says UFW Executive Director, Diana Tellefson Torres. "We're literally talking about a life-and-death situation here."
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Hispanic Federation Launches COVID-19 VIDA Initiative

Hispanic Federation
Jan 25, 2021

The Hispanic Federation (HF) recently announced their new VIDA initiative, or Vaccine Immunization Dosage Awareness.  The VIDA initiative is in partnership with 14 Latino Community Health Clinics, and will help Latinos get vaccinated against COVID-19.  HF recognizes that federally qualified health centers, or FQHC’s, are the health care providers of choice for millions of Latinos, especially those who are low-income, uninsured, immigrant, and/or undocumented.  

Unfortunately, although FQHC’s may be receiving vaccines to distribute from the federal government, the costs associated with the distribution is falling on the centers themselves.  This can lead some clinics to make the hard decision not to offer the vaccine at all – hence, the VIDA Initiative.  Laura Esquivel, Vice President of HF’s Federal Policy and Advocacy, says, “We have so much work to do to truly create an equitable vaccine distribution effort that reaches the most-impacted communities. We are currently very far from that – and it shows in the data of who is and who isn’t receiving the vaccine.”

Read the full press release

Read more about the White House’s initiative to send vaccines directly to community health centers.

Inside USDOL

Labor Secretary Nominee Marty Walsh talks with Senator Elizabeth Warren at Mayor Walsh's recent confirmation hearing. (Photographer: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images)

DOLETA under Interim Leadership as DOL Awaits Secretary Confirmation

With the change in administration comes a concurrent change in leadership at the US Department of Labor.  Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is still awaiting confirmation by the Senate, but is expected to take office in early March.  Meanwhile, ETA’s former Assistant Secretary, John Pallasch, exited his post on January 20th.  Since then, Deputy Assistant Secretary Nancy Rooney has been the acting agency head for the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and Suzan Levine is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary. 

View the agency listings here.

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2021 Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) Announced for H-2A Program

Employment & Training Reporter
March 1, 2021

The Employment and Training Administration issued 2021 adverse effect wage rates for the H-2A agricultural worker visa program in the Feb. 23 Federal Register.  These are the minimum wage requirements for H-2A workers and U.S. workers in the same jobs.  Last year, the Trump Administration sought to freeze the adverse effect wage rates through 2023, and thereafter change their method of calculation.  The Trump Administration sought to abandon the use of the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Labor Survey.  This met with a legal challenge from the United Farm Workers of America, and a U.S. District Court judge ruled in favor of the farmworkers’ organization, ordering that these rates be issued for this year following standard methods.  A separate, earlier court order directed the USDA to continue the survey that produces the wage data.  The 2021 adverse effect wage rates range from $11.81 in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina to $16.34 in Oregon and Washington State.  California saw the largest year-to-year increase in this wage requirement, from $14.77 to $16.05.

COVID-19: Increased Complaints and Reduced Inspections Leave Workers' Safety at Increased Risk

USDOL’s Office of Inspector General (OIG)
February 25, 2021

The US Department of Labor’s OIG released a devastating assessment of OSHA’s response to the pandemic, reporting that OSHA received more complaints but performed half as many inspections in 2020 compared to a similar period in 2019.  Also, none of the COVID-19 related guidance OSHA issued was enforceable.  “As a result,” OIG concluded, “there is an increased risk that OSHA is not providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites.” 

The OIG recommended that OSHA amend their onsite and remote inspection strategies, and that they issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases.  OSHA concurred with all four of the report’s recommendations, stating that “the agency is already working to launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk.”

View the full report.


Several Avenues Appear Open for Immigration Reform

Farmworker Justice
February 19, 2021

In addition to President Biden’s immigration bill, advocates and congressional leaders are working on other legislative efforts to alleviate the harm caused by our country’s broken immigration system. On January 29, 2021, Representatives Espaillat (NY), Bonamici (OR), Beyer (VA), Japayal (WA), and García (IL) introduced a legislative package aimed at protecting immigrant rights. It includes the Protect Sensitive Locations Act, which would prohibit immigration enforcement in areas such as schools, community centers, courthouses, and places of warship; the Reunite Every Unaccompanied Newborn Infant Toddler and Other Children Expeditiously (REUNITE) Act, which would require family reunification; and the ICE and CBP Body Camera Accountability Act, which would require that ICE and Border Patrol officials wear body cameras. Farmworker Justice supports these bills. Other ongoing legislative efforts include incorporating immigration reform into the second COVID relief package, which is expected to be introduced in late spring or early summer. If passed through budget reconciliation, the package would only require 51 votes.

Case Challenging a 2018 Workplace Raid Moves Forward

Farmworker Justice
February 19, 2021

Immigrant workers recently won a legal victory in Zelaya v. Hammer, a case against the United States and several ICE and IRS agents who conducted a 2018 meatpacking plant workplace raid in Tennessee. On January 31, 2021, Judge Travis R. McDonough largely denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss and allowed nine of the thirteen claims brought by the plaintiffs to move forward. Judge McDonough’s opinion calls on higher courts to remove barriers that prevent plaintiffs from bringing to court challenges against federal agents’ race-motivated searches and seizures.

Employment & Training

Unpacking the Work of Work-based Learning

Aspen Institute
February 26, 2021

America’s youngest workers, particularly young adults of color, are facing the most dire employment prospects since the Great Depression. As our nation looks toward recovery, and policymakers and investors seek strategies to build stronger connections to economic opportunity for young workers of color, we’d like to highlight the promise of work-based learning (WBL) opportunities:
  • WBL can help young adults of color get the experience, education, credentials, and relationships necessary to succeed in the workforce, now and in the future.
  • WBL can provide young adults of color an entry point into jobs in industries where they have been historically underrepresented. WBL can provide opportunities for young adults to demonstrate their value and abilities to employers and to change biases around hiring and career advancement
Read More

Fighting Poverty

President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rescue Act’s Pandemic Emergency Assistance Will Help Families with Lowest Income

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
March 11, 2021

The American Rescue Plan Act includes a new $1 billion Pandemic Emergency Assistance fund for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The new funding will provide much-needed resources to states, tribes, and territories (referred to here as states) to help families with the lowest incomes meet their added expenses or debt due to the pandemic.
States will decide which families most need assistance and direct the funds to them. States need not limit payments to families receiving TANF cash assistance, and in states where few families receive TANF benefits, assisting a broader group of needy families (such as SNAP families with children) would reach more families. States could also use the funds to meet specific needs, such as a diaper benefit for families with very young children. Benefits can be provided to families through a cash payment or through an in-kind, non-cash benefit; for example, a state could provide assistance directly to a utility company to cover back payments for a family that otherwise meets the criteria for the fund.
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COVID Relief Includes Critical Expansions of Child Tax Credit and EITC

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

March 2, 2021

Two key tax credit provisions in the COVID relief legislation – the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) - will provide significant help to those on the fault lines of some of the pandemic’s worst economic effects.  For example, updated national estimates show the number of white, Black, Latino, and Asian people who will benefit from these expansions, including:
  • Of the 27 million children who don’t get the full Child Tax Credit, an estimated 9.9 million are Latino, 5.7 million are Black, and 814,000 are Asian American. 
  • An estimated 65.7 million children will receive a larger Child Tax Credit under the expansion, delivering economic support to large numbers of children in every state, including 17.5 million Latino children, 9.4 million Black children, and 2.8 million Asian American children.
  • The EITC will benefit 17.3 million workers without children across the country, including roughly 2.8 million Black, 2.8 million Latino, and 678,000 Asian American workers without children.
The top occupations that will benefit include cashiers, food preparers and servers, and home health aides. The pandemic has helped the nation better understand and appreciate these workers and millions of others who work for low pay and the essential role they play in keeping this economy running, even while they often lack benefits that many other workers take for granted, such as paid sick days. They deserve more than the meager EITC in current law, and the American Rescue Plan Act will provide concrete, meaningful help.

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Emergency Broadband Benefit Coming Soon

Washington Post
February 26, 2021

The Federal Communications Commission has finalized a $3.2 billion program that will provide a monthly discount to millions of cash-starved Americans struggling to pay their Internet bills — the country’s most ambitious effort yet to close the digital divide amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price.

The program is authorized but start date has not yet been established. The FCC is working to make the benefit available as quickly as possible.

Read More

Check here for updates

U.S. Suffers Sharpest Rise in Poverty Rate in More Than 50 Years

Bloomberg Report
Jan 25, 2021

The end of 2020 brought the sharpest rise in the U.S. poverty rate since the 1960s, according to a study released in January. Economists Bruce Meyer, from the University of Chicago, and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame found that the poverty rate increased by 2.4 percentage points during the latter half of 2020 as the U.S. continued to suffer the economic impacts from Covid-19. That percentage-point rise is nearly double the largest annual increase in poverty since the 1960s. This means an additional 8 million people nationwide are now considered poor. Moreover, the poverty rate for Black Americans is estimated to have jumped by 5.4 percentage points, or by 2.4 million individuals. 

Read More

Documentary Featuring Food for Others Wins Best Documentary

Though the Greater DC area is one of the wealthiest regions in the nation, more than 600,000 are food insecure.  Fairfax County’s food pantry, Food for Others, added over 40,000 clients since the pandemic.  This film by Layth Alwatban featuring Food for Others' COVID-19 response won best documentary at the Beyond the Curve International Film Festival.

Watch the video

Farmworker and Migrant Children

Migrant Families Seek Mental Health Help for Trauma

Associated Press
February 21, 2021

55 Baltimore-area families, and some 578 across the country, are receiving free, confidential mental health services, after a federal judge held the government legally accountable for mental trauma brought on by the separation policy.  Doctors say that the trauma resulting from family separations and detentions ultimately can lead to long-term psychological effects, such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

One 29-year-old mother, Lilian, was fleeing violence in Honduras when, upon reaching the U.S. border, she was forcibly separated from her daughter. Even after they were reunited, Lilian said she remains traumatized whenever she hears an alarm and that she still gets scared in her sleep, though, with therapy, not as frequently as before.
 “People think it’s because you’re crazy or because you’re sick,” Lilian said about the counseling program. “But no, you really need to talk, you need to release what you have suffered, so you can feel clean, and feel good inside.”

Read More

How about a Child Rights Czar?

Len Morris, Media Voices for Children
January 27, 2021

2021 has been designated as the UN International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor.  Media Voices for Children has joined the call for the creation of an Office for Children in the White House, to be led by a cabinet-level appointee whose job is to generate support for a child-friendly agenda across government agencies.  Hundreds of organizations and individuals already support this important initiative.

We as a nation must enforce laws against child labor and hold corporations accountable for their supply chains. We must adopt the UN’s Declaration of the Rights of the Child. America is the only country in the world that has failed to do so. 

Domestically, we need to protect children in agriculture, regulate dangerous pesticides, outlaw children working in the tobacco industry and reunite children separated from their families at our borders. We must enable American workers to earn a living wage and organize unions to protect their interests. We cannot overlook the needs of children with disabilities, children held in detention or the Dreamers who live in fear of deportation.

The President of the United States has the power to lead this effort, to have our domestic and foreign policies place children’s welfare above all else in the decisions we make and the actions we take.

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Youths of Color are our Future. Investing in Their Mental Health Must be Taken Seriously

February 9, 2021

Gonzales is a small city in central California populated mostly by Latino immigrant families and farm workers.  Like other places, it has felt the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. When Covid-19 hit, the city’s youth council conducted an online mental health survey of middle and high schoolers.  The students received an overwhelming response that revealed high anxiety symptoms and stress among their peers.  The findings were a wake-up call to local leaders unaware of the depth of mental health issues their young people faced.

Read More

What We’re Reading

Grant Opportunities Available with National Foundations

For AFOP members looking to diversify their funding, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Toyota USA Foundation are soliciting proposals for training programs that support broader participation in STEM.

NSF Includes Alliances Solicitation:  Through ‘NSF Includes,’ the National Science Foundation will support the establishment and growth of new Alliances that employ a collaborative infrastructure approach to address a critical broadening participation challenge in STEM at scale.
  • Letter of Intent Deadline Date:      October 4, 2021
  • Full Proposal Deadline Date:        January 25, 2022
More information
  • The Toyota USA Foundation is a $100 million charitable endowment started in 1987 that supports innovative programs for students and teachers in science, technology, engineering and math programs during all phases of education – from preschool through post-secondary education.  Grants are by invitation-only and are specific to the Toyota Manufacturing facility in each state/region (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi). The application deadlines fall on two recurring dates:  May 1st and November 1st.
More information
The AFOP Washington Newsline (ISSN# 1056-8565) is produced by the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), a national federation of agencies serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers. AFOP’s mission is to improve the quality of life for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families by promoting self-sufficiency through employment and training opportunities, educational attainment, and health and safety.

The publication is funded by subscriptions and the members of AFOP. The Washington Newsline receives no financial support from the federal government. Staff may be reached by calling (202) 963-3200.
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs

1150 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 315
Washington, D.C. 20036

Direct: (202) 963-3200

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