Monday, March 21, 2011

Texas : New bills seek to initiate Bracero-like program

From Smithsonian Institute Exhibit: Braceros workers being Fumigated

Currently on display From the Smithsonian Collection
This photograph shows how upon arrival to the United States, braceros were taken to processing centers where they were searched for vegetables, weapons, marijuana or similar contraband and sprayed with DDT by Department of Agriculture personnel. 

The photographer, Leonard Nadel described the photograph with the following caption: "Much in the same manner and feeling used in handling livestock, upon crossing over the bridge from Mexico at Hidalgo, Texas, the men are herded into groups of 100 through a makeshift booth sprayed with DDT."
Today's McAllen Monitor has a story on legislation that might rekindle the bracero experience.

From the McAllen Monitor

MISSION — Most of the farm workers who harvest and process citrus for South Tex Organics are familiar faces who return each growing season to provide a reliable labor force. At the peak of the season, South Tex Organics, the largest organic citrus and vegetable grower in the state, has up to 80 workers picking in fields scattered across the Rio Grande Valley or processing the food sent to retail shelves from the Mission-based packing shed, said Dennis Holbrook, who established the company in 1984.

Back then, rapid growth in the sale of organic food was just beginning. But as South Tex Organics expanded to meet the demands of his distributors, Holbrook has found it harder and harder to expand his labor force beyond those reliable few.

Fearing a continued shortage of farm workers, Holbrook and other Texas farmers worked with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to establish a pilot program allowing them to hire laborers from Mexico. But in the polarizing debate on immigration reform, that guest worker program didn’t get far.

While he doubts two bills filed by state legislators to introduce a similar program in Texas will pass muster, Holbrook is hopeful the discussions will at least generate interest in addressing shortages of hired labor in Texas agriculture.

“The bottom line when it comes to the available workforce is that most people who live in this country don’t want to work in the fields,” Holbrook said. “There is just always a shortage of labor because these are jobs that a lot of people don’t want to do.”

1 comment:

  1. Texas may not have it but I think other states do have guest worker programs still.

    FYI - someday, all the DDT sprayed on us when we were little is going to haunt us. The smell still lives in my memory.