Immigrants Feed Us / by Alexa Arnold

If you happen to be thinking that Trump's proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border or to eradicate immigrants from our country won't have much of an impact on your life, I'm here to remind you that immigrants feed you. 78% of farm workers in the US are foreign-born and over half are undocumented – chances are, the food you ate today was grown, harvested and packaged by farm workers born in Mexico or central America. The farm workers responsible for putting food on grocery store shelves, in restaurants and on dinner tables across the country are exposed to poor working conditions, paid unfair and barely livable wages, are victims of sexual violence in the workplace, and live in fear of losing their job, home or being deported. Anti-immigrant policies at the state level, like HB 56 in Alabama, further marginalize immigrant workers, and Trump's working to ensure HB 56-style tactics are represented at the federal level through his nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. If we build a wall, elect a Labor Secretary who's against labor rights, or elect an Attorney General who's opposed every immigration bill brought to the Senate for the past two decades, we'll quite literally cut off the hand that feeds us. Immigrants are a vital part of the American story of agriculture and instead of trying to find a way without them, it's time our country prioritized their basic rights, paid them a fair and living wage, and reformed our immigration and food systems so that they're based on justice, respect and dignity.

Here are a few #smallactsofresistance you can do today to speak out against the exploitation of farmworkers in our food and immigration systems.

Oppose the nomination of andy puzder for labor secretary

Trump's cabinet is filled with nominees who are working for the interests of big business over the interests of working people – including Andy Puzder, Trump's pick for Labor Secretary. Hundreds of food and farm organizations have signed onto oppose Puzder's nomination, and today I'm joining them by calling senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and urging them to vote no. Puzder's the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which operates Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s; he believes that workers should be replaced by machines (so much for the Trump administration's focus on job creation) and that fast food companies shouldn't be held accountable for unlawful behaviors like sexual harassment or other mistreatments of workers. His confirmation would ensure that the interests of the fast food industry would prevail over the needs of hard-working people in the food system who face some of the highest rates of food insecurity due to low wages and poor working conditions.

Find Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee members, and links to their contact information, here. You can give the Committee office a ring directly: 202-224-5375. 


Today I'm participating in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' National Call-In Day to urge Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor to end exploitation in their supply chain by joining CIW's Fair Food Program, which aims to give farmworkers a voice in the issues that affect their lives and ensures humane wages and working conditions for workers who pick vegetables and fruit on participating farms. Major produce buyers like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Chipotle and McDonald’s have agreed to purchase Florida tomatoes only from growers in good standing with the Fair Food Program, but Wendy's has yet to sign on. This is about more than just immigrant rights – it's about laborer's rights to a fair wage and a clean working and living environment, including those who are non-immigrants but are equally exploited and abused on farms; it's about women's rights, especially the vegetable and fruit laborers that experience sexual violence in the fields; and it's about consumer rights, because all of us who consume food deserve the right to demand that large food companies no longer turn a blind eye to the exploitation happening in their supply chains. 

Join me, and farm worker rights advocates across the country, by calling Wendy's CEO Todd Penegor and asking him to end exploitation in their supply chain by joining the internationally-recognized Fair Food Program. Here's a link to Penegor's phone number, a call script, and a form to fill out after your call to let CIW know how it went.

Oppose the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

When it comes to immigration law, the Attorney General is the most powerful player in our country. Trump's pick for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, has held a Senate seat in Alabama for over 20 years, and has spent his entire political career criminalizing people of color, associating with a known hate group, and attacking hard-working immigrants. If confirmed, Sessions, who has a track record of opposing nearly every immigration bill that's come before the Senate in the past two decades, will be empowered to roll back policies like the DREAM Act, and will be responsible for creating new immigration regulations, requiring particular forms of documentation, and a host of other duties that could impact the lives of our country's immigrants. 

Senator Sessions, a known propagandist, nationalist and white supremacist, will be voted on by the full Senate any day now. His confirmation is almost assured – Sessions, who is well liked by his GOP colleagues, appears to have the 50 votes he needs to get confirmed with Republicans holding a 52-seat majority. Many GOP members have not voiced any opposition to Sessions and he has the vote of at least one Democrat — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Join me by resisting Session's nomination by calling and tweeting at your Republican Senators, and at moderate Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine (202-224-2523) and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (202-224-6665) today. Here are a few a sample tweets:

To Senator Lisa Murkowski@lisamurkowski vote no on @SenatorSessions - his xenophobic views are a threat to civil rights, women's health and immigrants #StopSessions

To Senator Susan Collins: @SenatorCollins vote no on @SenatorSessions - his xenophobic views are a threat to civil rights, women's health and immigrants #StopSessions

Onward, friends. How are you speaking up about immigrant rights, laborer rights, women's rights and human rights today?