Fear among vulnerable immigrants

Vermont and neighboring New Hampshire have small unauthorized and legally vulnerable immigrants. Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, an award winning reporter for the Valley News which covers two dozen towns in both states, profiles some of these individuals who are working.

He writes about “black market limbo” in which they are caught. Tamara, 43, raises three children in the Upper Valley. Born in English-speaking Africa, she holds a nursing degree, and recently earned $19 an hour in a healthcare job. Today she earns below the minimum wage cleaning houses. She over-stayed her visa, which an estimated 400,000 did in 2015 and which some two thirds of all 11 million unauthorized persons did.

She arrived with husband and two children in 2003 legally, went in, out and in legal status and got a registered nursing degree in 2010, divorced her abusive husband in 2013, and as of now is out of legal status. One of her children has been accepted at the University of Chicago. The Department of Homeland Security has voided any special protections for her that the Obama Administration introduced.

Hongoltz-Hetling reported earlier on the anxiety of unauthorized dairy workers in Vermont. He says that Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based advocacy group, estimates that 1,500 undocumented migrants now make up a majority of the Vermont farm workforce, producing dairy products for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and others.

A Vermont woman married a 21 year-old Mexican worker, then living in the South and with legal status. They are now in the late 20s, with a daughter. The husband and father works on a New Hampshire dairy farm and lost his legal status.

Dairy farms in the region survive in part by hiring Hispanic workers, many of them illegally here.

The husband was arrested in 2012 for illegal status, spent three months in detention, got out and eventually obtained a green card. But the card could be taken away, per Homeland Security, if he does so much as have a moving violation when driving.

In early May Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy filed legislation to protect unauthorized farm workers. Per the Vermont Digger, under their Agricultural Worker Program Act, foreign farmworkers who have worked in the United States in agriculture for at least 100 days in each of the past two years may earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain blue card status for the next three or five years, depending on the total hours worked in agriculture, would become eligible to adjust to legal permanent residency and obtain their green cards.

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