Farm workers desperate for affordable housing

More than half of crop workers in the U.S.–laborers and their supervisors–are Hispanic, and most of those workers are foreign-born. The U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) has also found that about half of crop workers are undocumented. So when you hear Donald Trump’s wild promise to deport immigrants without work authorization, think about what it would mean at your dinner table if, as President, he made good on it. No wonder that many–American citizens as well as immigrants–consider Trump’s boast to be more threat than promise. 

For most of the twentieth century a large proportion of farm workers were temporary migrants, following crops and returning home when fields were fallow. Even as late as the 1990s fewer than half of hired crop workers lived permanently near where they worked. But, partly because immigration policy has made it increasingly difficult to go back and forth across international borders for seasonal employment, farm workers are increasingly settling near their workplaces; the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that three-quarters now live within seventy-five miles of their farms. 

For these workers, finding decent, affordable housing, however, is almost impossible. The private market offers little beyond dilapidated trailers, few farmers are willing or able to construct housing for their workers, and grant money from the federal Farm Labor Housing program cannot begin to meet the need. Federal financing for farm worker housing projects amounted to more than $20 million in 2015, but tenants in rental housing supported by that program must be citizens or green card holders,a policy that excludes many of those with the greatest need. Read more about the problem here and get the perspective of Angel Castro, who has lived it and now advocates for solutions for others. 

Castro web

Diana Gordon
March 6, 2016