July 15, 2019
Latest News

Undocumented farmworkers in Florida fear massive roundups

By Antoni Belchi

Homestead, Florida, Jul 9 (efe-epa).- This town that sits at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula not only has the biggest detention center for undocumented minors in the United States but also has many undocumented farmworkers who are currently frightened by the threat of massive roundups.

Homestead, 35 miles (56 km) southwest of Miami, is a mainly agricultural area that employs some 40,000 mostly undocumented workers, the local WeCount organization that looks out for immigrants reported.

"It scares me a lot...My only crime in this country has been to go around without documents...I don't hurt anyone, I'm not a criminal," a 40-year-old Mexican woman told EFE, declining to give her name for fear of being caught.

The woman, the mother of three children ages 19, 14 and 5, was reacting to the announced expiration of President Donald Trump's two-week postponement of massive raids in major US cities, a worry that returned after the president warned last weekend that they would begin "fairly soon."

"We're now in the high season of beans and sweet potatoes," the concerned Mexican woman said.

For a daily eight hours of work at $8 an hour, she is paid $1,600 a month to do a job that forces her to bear high temperatures, which in summer months often top 90 F (32.5 C), as well as torrential rains and insect bites.

"I have to make such an effort to earn what I earn, but come rain and thunder here we go, in the rain or under the sun," she said with resignation.

Not far from where she works is the largest detention center for undocumented minors in the country, with a capacity for some 3,200 youngsters between ages 13 and 17 who have been separated from parents in the process of deportation.

The facility, which is privately owned and operated, has drawn criticism from civil organizations and Democratic lawmakers.

After the first debate among hopefuls for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination held late last month in Miami, many of the candidates tried to visit the Homestead detention center to observe the conditions.

Being separated from her US-born children is one of the Mexican mother's greatest fears, since she wants nothing more than to provide them with a better education and a better life in the United States.

"My kids would be left on their own, but if I take them back to my country they won't have the same chances," said the woman, who dreams of eventually attending the university graduation of her first-born.

The undocumented immigrants who labor in the Homestead crops have doubled their precautions against the expected arrival of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Alejandra, 30, a Guatemalan who also works in the fields at Homestead, said that when she's out among the crops she stays as far from the highway as she can, so she'll have time to "escape" in case of a raid.

The Guatemalan shares a chat group with other workers to exchange information and, above all, to receive warnings about the incursions of ICE agents.

Some local organizations that provide help for the undocumented, like WeCount, trust that the government will find a solution for the immigrants.

"One has the right to keep silent, according to the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution. Immigrants don't have to sign any document and should grab a phone to record what's going on because that helps us verify if (the agents) are abusing or not," said Guadalupe de la Cruz, a volunteer at the Miami-based WeCount. EFE-EPA

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