The Charlotte Observer editorial page does a good job today of explaining how our broken immigration system sets up good people for suffering and exploitation. As an editorial entitled “When undocumented workers are prey” explains, a woman is in jail today in North Carolina because she reported, accurately, that her employer was cheating her out of wages earned.

The woman in question, of course, was the subject of a weekend story in Raleigh’s News & Observer. As that story explained, the woman, Miriam Solais, is a one of many thousands of immigrants who entered the U.S. without authorization and then, in keeping with the country’s “nod and wink” employment system, obtained a false Social Security card. Here’s the Observer:

“It’s the type of scenario that immigration advocates have warned about for years. But it’s more than just small businesses paying poor wages under the table. Larger employers like poultry plants are notorious for an abusive culture that exploits a primarily Latino workforce. Criminals prey on Latinos who they know are reluctant to report crimes.

All of which endangers not just undocumented immigrants, but their families. The state’s answer to this? Laws that further push these families to the margins, including the newly minted ‘Protect North Carolina Workers Act,’ which bans sanctuary cities and jeopardizes children’s access to critical services by restricting their parents’ use of a common ID that foreign consulates issue.

That provision, signed into law last month by Gov. Pat McCrory, could block tens of thousands of U.S.-born children – who are U.S. citizens – from getting birth certificates or being enrolled in schools, the advocacy group NC Child said Monday.

The solution, as always, lies in Washington, but conservative Republicans continue to block reasonable immigration reform that would offer undocumented immigrants a chance to obtain legal status while continuing to lead productive lives here. Instead, conservatives insist on the fantasy of deporting more than 10 million immigrants.

While that stalemate endures, immigrants remain in limbo and in danger. Yes, Miriam Martinez Solais broke the law, along with millions of others who crossed the U.S. border. But she shouldn’t be left vulnerable to other lawbreakers – and to the broken immigration system that enables them.”

The editorial is right that the solution lies in Washington, but until that happens, there are steps we can and should take at the state and local levels that would make things much better. A new report today from the Center for American Progress (“Providing Identification to Unauthorized Immigrants”)  lists some of those steps. Unfortunately, as the editorial notes, for now, North Carolina is headed in precisely the wrong direction. And with the current hysteria being stirred up by politicians of both parties, things figure to get worse before they get better.


TeachersWhen politicians talk about “running government like a business,” for many of us (even skeptics) it conjures up vague images  of hard-nosed accountants demanding results and issuing edicts to do away with no bid contracts and wasteful outlays for  travel and fancy meals. A new report from the top-flight journalists at Pro Publica, however, paints a much clearer portrait of what the future actually holds in the regard: temp workers — lots and lots of temp workers.

This is from the report, “A Modern Day ‘Harvest of Shame‘”:

“Half a century ago, the legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow came to this pancake-flat town in central New Jersey to document the plight of migrant farmworkers for a television special called “Harvest of Shame.”

Today, many of Cranbury’s potato fields have been built up with giant warehouses that form a distribution hub off Exit 8A of the Jersey Turnpike.

But amid this 21st century system of commerce, an old way of labor persists. Temporary workers make a daily migration on buses to this area, just as farmworkers did for every harvest in the 1960s. Temp workers today face many similar conditions in how they get hired, how they live and what they can afford to eat. Adjusted for inflation, many of today’s temp workers earn roughly the same amount as those farmworkers did 50 years ago.

Across the country, farms full of migrant workers have been replaced with warehouses full of temp workers, as American consumers depend more on foreign products, online shopping and just-in-time delivery. It is a story that begins at the ports of Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., follows the railroads to Chicago and ends at your neighborhood box store, or your doorstep.

The temp industry now employs 2.8 million workers – the highest number and highest proportion of the American workforce in history. As the economy continues to recover from the Great Recession, temp work has grown nine times faster than private-sector employment as a whole. Overall, nearly one-sixth of the total job growth since the recession ended has been in the temp sector.”

And, of course, if  a phenomenon like this is good enough for the “free market,” it’s gotta’ be a “must” for the brave new world of conservative-run government like the one North Carolinians are currently enduring. Any more questions about why state leaders are so anxious to, effectively, turn thousands upon thousands of public school teachers into temps?  That’s right: they want to “run government like a business.”


Farmworkers 2In anticipation of your Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, consider sharing this essay about the people who made it possible:

Safer food, farmworkers and families
By Fawn Pattison, Executive Director, Toxic Free NC

As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this week, many of us will say a prayer of thanks for the hardworking people who harvest our food. While we enjoy the harvest’s bounty, we also reflect on those who work hard in the fields, facing many dangers and often not earning enough to put food on the table themselves. That’s why Thanksgiving week is also designated as International Food Workers Week.

This week a coalition of farmworker supporters is launching a new campaign to keep farmworkers safe from one of the biggest hazards they face on the job: exposure to toxic pesticides.

Check out and add your name to the petition calling on the federal government to fix the outdated pesticide rules that are failing to keep workers – and us – safe from exposure on the job. Read More


Farmworker pre-K(This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we?ll be discussing here.)

By John Menditto

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama announced a bold and ambitious plan to expand preschool services. The “Preschool for All” Initiative calls for $75 billion in new funding during the next decade to partner with states and help expand access to low- and middle-income children who are not currently enrolled in preschool programs.

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has been tireless in his advocacy for this new, national initiative. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with Secretary Duncan as part of a small coalition of community-based groups who serve the Latino community and ask him how the Administration would make sure that the Preschool for All Initiative did not exclude by its design the preschool-aged children of migrant farm workers. Secretary Duncan assured the group that “Preschool for All” meant exactly that: there would be no asterisk excepting out farmworker families. He invited those in attendance to provide the Administration with information on how to design preschool services to ensure the children of farmworker families did not lose out on the benefits of a preschool education.  Read More


From the good folks at the Farmworker Advocacy Network:

FarmworkersFarmworkers’ Day of the Dead celebration calls for new life in labor issues
Remembering the dead, holiday highlights workers’ plight, lax state protections

RALEIGH, NC – Gathering this Saturday to remember fallen field and poultry workers, North Carolina farmworkers and human rights advocates are set to observe the Day of the Dead in light of current labor hardships. Workers and members of the Farmworker Advocacy Network will gather after El Centro restaurant’s Day of the Dead 5K Run/Walk in downtown Raleigh in honor of the holiday, in which friends and families assemble to celebrate lost loved ones. This year advocates will gather around a traditional Day of the Dead altar at El Centro at 11 a.m. to remember farmworkers who died on the job in North Carolina, including nine children over the last decade. Read More