migrant workers

Esther Honig / Harvest Public Media file photo

Despite COVID-19 risks and high unemployment rates last year, employers wanted to fill more jobs filled with H-2A guest workers in 2020.

Usually, high unemployment rates decrease the demand for H-2A workers. Diane Charlton, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University, says a 1% increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a 5% decrease in demand for H-2A workers, according to a recent study. She says that trend didn't hold up in 2020. 

Courtesy of Meyer Agri-Air

In late July 2019, a group of migrant farmworkers from south Texas was working in a cornfield in DeWitt County, Ill., when suddenly a crop duster flew overhead, spraying them with pesticides. Panicked, the crew, which included teenagers and a pregnant woman, ran off the field with clothes doused in pesticides. Their eyes and throats burned and some had trouble breathing.

It happened again two weeks later, this time twice within 30 minutes.

Dana Cronin

En las afueras de Rantoul, en el centro-este de Illinois, unos 100 trabajadores agrícolas migrantes están viviendo en un viejo hotel localizado en una parte tranquila de la ciudad.

 

Dana Cronin

 

On the outskirts of Rantoul, in east-central Illinois, about 100 migrant farmworkers are living at an old hotel in a sleepy part of town.

 

Every day at the crack of dawn, Samuel Gomez and the rest of the crew get their temperatures checked on the way out the door. Most workers, donning masks, load onto a big yellow school bus for a 30-minute drive to a large warehouse, where they will spend the day sorting corn coming in on large conveyor belts.