This article has been corrected to specify farm workers were fighting for worker’s rights, not farmers.
After farmers workers fought for decades for the right to receive overtime pay, the right to strike and to a day off each week, the New York State Legislature passed the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act at the end of last session. The bill will go into effect in 2020, but some farmers — backed by the powerful New York Farm Bureau — are already saying it will ruin them financially. Farmworker advocates, meanwhile, say the law will allow workers to live better lives with a safer work culture.
The new law — which Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed last week — will create housing protections for farm workers, many of whom live where they work. It will also enhance their access to worker’s compensation and worker safety. Beth Lyon, a Cornell law school professor and director of a Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic, said that few regulators visit “farms on the federal or state level looking at the safety and health of farm workers.” The law could help change this.
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The total cost of the law is unclear, but the largest financial hit for the farmers will definitely be overtime pay. A report by Farm Credit East, an agricultural creditor, said overtime pay could add up to $118 million on a 40 hour work week, a wage increase of 44 percent. The real sum would likely be lower, as the law made the weekly overtime threshold 60 hours before overtime kicked in. Fiscal Policy Institute, a think-tank, estimated that the total wage increase would be 5 percent on a 40 hour work week. Albany Times-Union
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Cuomo Signs Immigrant Discrimination Protections into Law
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a law that aims to block employers from threatening to call federal immigration authorities on their employees. The new law would add threats or punishment against an employee in relation to their immigration status to the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. The law codifies federal rulings that interpreted threats by employers to call ICE as retaliation against an employee. The measure was sponsored by Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (D-Bronx). Spectrum Local News
Upstate Farm Uses Egyptian Farmers and Farming Techniques
A farm in upstate New York serves as the backbone of fine dining establishment across the city. Its secret weapon? Egyptian farmers and farming techniques. When Ziad and Haifa Kurdieh started Norwich Meadows Farm, they sought to provide fresh produce they found growing up in the Middle East. So in 1998, they bought a house in Norwich, New York and started cultivating various middle eastern vegetables. They soon bought land nearby and built high tunnels as a more cost efficient structure for growing produce, and Ziad Kurdieh flew to Egypt to find farmers familiar with the tunnel system. He continues to use Egyptians to grow his crops and flies over two dozen laborers every year for seasonal work. The New York Times
NYC Immigration Court Starts Using Video Introductions
As a cost-cutting measure, immigration courts across the country have started using a video to explain how the court system works and other technical matters to people appearing before the court. After the video, an immigration judge then runs through which documents they need to collect and some other technical legal issues. It’s currently being used in New York’s Federal Plaza court, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review says it plans to offer the video in 20 other languages. Advocates worry the video is confusing and that without the human element, important details can get lost. WNYC
Memo: Homeland Security Secretary to Lobby For Third Country Agreement in Guatemala
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan plans to press Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales on how the country will implement the third country agreement, according to a document BuzzFeed News obtained. One talking point for an upcoming trip McAleenan will take will be “Has Guatemala taken any steps to create the Guatemalan implementation plan?” The plan will require people seeking asylum in the United States to have applied for asylum in Guatemala before they reach the U.S. and has spurred protests in Guatemala against President Morales. McAleenan plans to meet with two of the lead candidates for Guatemala’s presidency after Morales soon leaves. BuzzFeed News
Number of Central American Migrants in Mexico Falls
The number of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico has fallen 39 percent since May. Mexico’s foreign relations secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the number of migrants fell from 144,278 in May, to 87,648 so far in July. Ebrard said the drop is due to Mexico better enforcing its immigration laws as well as investment in job creation in Central America. Ebrard also discussed the Trump administration’s so-called “Migrant Protection Protocols,” where asylum seekers are sent to Mexico to wait for immigration court hearings in the U.S. He said Mexico would not provide shelter for all of the migrants in the U.S. Associated Press
California Professors Install Border Art Piece
Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, two California professors, unveiled an art project they made along the border that immediately went viral. They installed three seesaws in Sunland Park, New Mexico and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico “The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side,” Rael wrote in an Instagram post Monday. Rael’s post shows adults and children gleefully playing on the installation. HuffPost
Formerly Detained American Citizen Sues Government
Francisco Galicia, the 18-year-old American citizen who was detained by ICE for more than three weeks, is now suing the government over the conditions he faced while he was detained. Galicia was detained by Customs and Border Patrol with his brother while en route to a soccer scouting event in Texas. His brother Marlon — who is undocumented — self deported to Mexico while Galicia was stuck in detention. But Marlon called their mother and told her about Galicia’s situation while he made his way to his grandmother’s home in Northern Mexico. The family is now fighting to bring Marlon back to the U.S. and to get the federal government to pay for its wrongdoing. The Guardian
American Border Guards Doused Mexican Farmworkers With Deadly Chemicals in the Early 20th Century
In 1917, American officials began dousing immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. on the border with toxic chemicals, including gasoline. A 17-year-old Mexican woman named Carmelita Torres refused the treatment, sparking a riot in Juarez. Torres regularly crossed the border to work as a maid. The campaign continued for decades and even inspired Nazi scientists. The U.S. government used Zyklon B — the chemical later used Nazi gas chambers — to delouse migrants crossing the border in the 1920s. Vox
Washington — Asylum Category Limits, 2020 Democratic Talk Immigration, DHS Watchdog Pledges Detention Investigations
Attorney General William Barr has moved to end asylum protections for migrants who are applying for asylum because their relatives have been persecuted. Barr’s decision overturned a 2018 judgement by the Board of Immigration Appeals that found that a Mexican migrant whose father was targeted by drug cartels was eligible for asylum. Barr’s ruling found that the appeals court “erred” in finding the migrant’s family qualified as a social group.
Barr’s ruling comes from a case involving a Mexican migrant who entered the U.S. in 2011 to claim asylum after receiving threats from a drug cartel. An immigration judge denied him asylum, but an appeals court found he was a member of a protected social group as his father was also under threat. Barr claims that decision expanded the definition of social group too far.
“This really is the administration’s attempt to chill one of the main bases for asylum in the United States, just sort of by administration fiat,” said Bradley Jenkins, the federal litigation attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network who represented the Mexican migrant. “This is a wide-ranging decision.” The New York Times
As the Democratic primary candidates sparred over Medicare for All, beating Trump and the Green New Deal on Tuesday night, some contenders also exposed their views on immigration. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) immigration plan, saying decriminalizing illegal entry to the U.S. and giving undocumented immigrants healthcare would cause more people to try to come to the U.S. Yet Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) have all endorsed Sanders’ plan. Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) said decriminalizing entry would encourage more immigrants to enter the country illegally. Axios
The new head of the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog says he will continue frequent and unannounced inspections of immigration detention facilities. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told BuzzFeed News that Joseph Cuffari, the new head of the DHS’ Office of Inspector General, is committed to continuing rigorous investigation of the department’s practices. Cuffari said he would also rebuff any Trump administration interference in the department’s actions. BuzzFeed News
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