In response to deportations of Addison County farm workers and separation of families, many UUs seek to help. With farmers, migrants and volunteers in our community, CVUUS continues to explore where help is needed. We work with and through other groups toward meeting migrants’ language, legal, banking, shopping, transportation, health and housing needs. We also host a Mexican Consulate Visit each year.
Mexican Consulate Visit at CVUUS
For five of the past seven years CVUUS has been the site for the Boston-based mobile Consulate. CVUUS will host the next one on Saturday, October 28, 2023 (9 am – 3 pm) and welcomes volunteers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Mexican citizens living and working in Vermont are able to conveniently meet with their country’s consulate right here in Middlebury. Last year, the “Mobile Consulate” served over 80 people with appointments and as many as 50 people who showed up without an appointment. They processed 120 passports and many other official legal documents.
Along with donations of coffee, fruit, cider, and yummy baked goods, our partners at Viva El Sabor prepared delicious, authentic Mexican food for the gathering and Green Peppers restaurant donated pizzas to add to the fiesta atmosphere.
With kindness and smiles volunteers welcome and direct cars, greet attendees, sort recycling, drive around, make coffee, mind the kitchen, play with children, and clean up the beautiful CVUUS space for services Sunday. Darn Tough Socks often donates a lot of sturdy warm army socks.
In addition, the Open Door Clinic (ODC) sees numerous patients. Last year they gave COVID booster shots, COVID vaccines, flu shots, and Tdap vaccinations , as well as did blood glucose checks, BP checks, and COVID tests.
Many other organizations serving the migrant community come to share their work and network with each other.
A number of people donate funds to support the participation of the local Mexican community in this event. Funds that were unspent last year were divided between Viva El Sabor, the Open Door Clinic, and Addison Allies Network.
Look Back at Support for Migrant Farm Workers
CVUUS has a long-term commitment to supporting farm workers toiling in Vermont. Much has changed in the 20 plus years since the Addison County Farmworker Coalition first began bringing together workers, farmers, health, and social service agencies:
- The Farm Health Task Force was formed,
- Open Door clinic hired Spanish Speaking professionals to augment their volunteer translators and remains a key connector for migrants to other services;
- Middlebury College students formed Juntos, a group that provides English practice and promotes solidarity with farm workers;
- Migrant Justice was created and has mounted numerous effective and successful campaigns around civil rights, labor protections, safety, and health;
- Since 2015 Vermont residents without proof of citizenship can obtain a Driver’s Privilege Card;
- 2018 Vermont’s Criminal Justice Council approved a Model Fair and Impartial Policing Policy;
- Guatemalan Consulate Visit was conducted at Ilsley Library Community Meeting Room Sunday Aug 19, 2019 for the first time in Middlebury.
- The voices and images of worker’s lives continue to be shared through art, photography, film, legislative testimony, and journalism;
- Banks have opened accounts for people without Social Security numbers;
- In 2020 a cooperative of migrant women formed Viva El Sabor to promote Central American food and support their families.
Unfortunately, much has not changed:
- An Ag Labor law has never been enacted to give dairy workers legal status;
- People still feel threatened and insecure about being out in public;
- Access to health, mental health, and dental services is still limited;
- Families still worry about being ripped apart;
- Local and State law enforcement officers continue to coordinate with ICE;
- Dairy farms are under increasing financial pressure and some are going out of business.
We know that the desire to support the farmworkers and farms in our community , as well as those detained at our southern border, is as strong as ever. Groups such as Addison Allies Network, Showing Up for Racial Justice and other ad hoc groups have arisen to tackle some of the challenges. Interested in getting involved? See the opportunities below:
Open Door Clinic (ODC)
ODC provides needed health services for migrants. They are a critical hub of migrant support on many levels and coordinate with many groups seeking to assist migrants. They use Spanish speaking volunteers to help migrant workers with medical appointments.
Open Door Clinic (ODC) provides outreach to farms. Nurses and volunteers visit farms to give COVID vaccine shots and receives prepared meals to be distributed to farm workers.
Huertas Project and El Viaje Mas Caro: Both programs hosted by ODC in coordination with others are designed to address the unique needs of Vermont’s migrant worker population. One helps establish gardens growing migrant food and the other records stories in cartoon format. These were compiled recently into a book The Most Costly Journey which you can get at Vermont Folklife Center and Vermont Book Shop. A Most Costly Journey is a non-fiction comics anthology that presents stories of survival and healing told by Latin American migrant farmworkers in Vermont. It was the 2022 Vermont Common Reads choice and one of the most popular books ever selected with hundreds of copies given away free though libraries and groups hosting talks. See more here.
Addison Allies Network
Addison Allies trains volunteers and seeks their stories, successes, questions, concerns about working with (teaching, driving, socializing, otherwise supporting) farm workers. Catch up on some of their stories here: Addison Allies STORIES Veronica Ciambra and Kathy Comstock launched Addison Allies after a panel at the Congregational Church of Middlebury on April 28, 2017 moderated by Emily Joselson and Andy Nagy-Benson and included: Phyllis Bowdish, farm owner; Julia Doucet, Outreach Coordinator at Open Door Clinic; Dr. Susannah McCandless, International Program Director for Global Diversity and Migrant Justice board member; and Robert Zarate-Morales, Middlebury College’s Juntos organization.
CVUUS provided fiscal oversight until Addison Allies Network become incorporated in summer 2018. Donations for their ongoing work may go directly to Addison Allies Network, 58 Seminary St, Middlebury VT 05753. or online at Vimeo @addison-allies or PayPal email@example.com
Household items are always needed as well as access to a truck to help move large furnishings and appliances. Contact: Veronica Ciambra (802) 989-6866 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. She’s pictured in red shirt.
Addison Allies Network (AAN) is looking for volunteers to provide rides to migrant workers and their families for medical and dental appointments and to escort workers who need driving practice to qualify for their licenses (no teaching required). AAN sends out emails to a list of potential drivers with the date, time, and location of the ride requested. If you can provide the ride, you respond to the request and AAN provides further details. If you can’t, just hit delete. Let Lise Anderson know if you would like to join the list of potential drivers or help with the Fiesta.
You can find their mission and list of accomplishments here: Addison Allies Accomplishments with mission
- “How can We Help” flyer
- 30 active volunteers teaching English to about 40 farm workers
- Volunteers translated English forms or instructions to Spanish
- Established Addison Allies Network’s Coronavirus Emergency Fund for immigrant workers. Donations are welcome.
- Collected and distributed books including literature in Spanish to farmworkers
- Organized access to Bristol Fitness pre-COVID for area farm workers
- Volunteers provide rides, help to secure driver privilege cards, do social things, help workers access necessities and services;
- Organized socializing including a holiday dinner for Misty Knoll and 4 Hills workers; cookie making and delivery to worker homes; Spanish mass in Bridport with dinner for workers after; salsa dancing Two Brothers Tavern in Middlebury in Burlington and at Tortierelle.
- Provided training for English language practice with Rebecca Holmes and teaching through stories with Chris Urban, both professional teachers.
- Promoted a Spanish-speaking playgroup at St Jude, the Catholic Church in Hinesburg
- Coordinated Catholic Mass and celebrations in Spanish for Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with local churches and other holidays
- Helped at least 25 people obtain Vermont Driver Privilege cards;
- Assisted with obtaining, buying and servicing cars
- Paid for professional driver training for workers with a short term grant
- Coordinated development of fair price rides by workers for workers
University of Vermont Extension
UVM offers GED programs for migrant students. The only requirements are that they have had to have moved at least once since coming to the US and they do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent. GED students work through the UVM Extension Service. The contact person is Claire Bove- firstname.lastname@example.org, (802) 476-2003. There is also a program that includes English language study for workers under age 23. (802-476-2003 ext. 223 or email@example.com)
http://www.osymigrant.org/EnglishWorkbook_VT.pdf http://www.osymigrant.org/EnglishTeacherGuide_VT.pdf http://www.osymigrant.org/Problem-PosingESL_VT.pdf
Migrant Justice, based in Burlington, is most known for its Milk with Dignity campaign and continues to organize rallies, marches and protests to advance this campaign. See Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Timeline. Ben & Jerry’s finally signed an agreement in 2017. Now a Milk with Dignity Standards Council independently oversees compliance. MJ’s current campaign seeks to a similar contract to protect workers on farms that sell milk through with Hannafords Supermarkets. Volunteers are welcome.
Volunteering: To provide transportation and childcare at seasonal assemblies reach out to Migrant Justice here.
Migrant Justice Teleayuda phone number 802-658-6770 for any question related to labor, housing, immigrant rights
For emergencies such as detention, accident, violence or threats of violence, death, forced labor, etc 802-881-7229
Many efforts are being made to bring food to farms or hubs and to organize social events for cooking ethnic food. We see evidence that food trucks deliver ethnic food, some monthly. NOFA has a strong interest in better supporting the Migrant community and would welcome ideas for how they might do that, beyond the Milk with Dignity campaign.
Other Ongoing Efforts
Farmworker Housing Initiative
In 2021 VT Housing and Conservation Board approved ARPA funds to be spent for repair and replacement of farm housing. This followed the farmworker Housing Needs Assessment and report in April 2021 by John Ryan. CVUUS member volunteers, Migrant Justice, and a statewide collection of housing and energy groups participated in planning the call for proposals. The group that was awarded the first contract will be the focal point for coordinating and planning farmworker housing activities going forward. There are plenty of opportunities for involvement in pushing for better housing. Contact Lise Anderson for more info 734-255-3434
Lise participated in a Champlain Housing Trust (CHT)/UVM Extension call about the VHCB Farmworker Housing Repair Program. If you know any farmers who may want to take advantage of this opportunity to make repairs on their worker housing, please refer them to Charlie or Becca (see below).
The program seems to be moving right ahead. They want farmers with interest to call as soon as possible. Projects can be proposed that range from 3-30K as zero interest, 10 year, forgivable loans if space is still worker housing. To cover larger projects, CHT will help find additional funds they know of. The plan was to close applications around April 15th (seems soon!). The UVM team will help farmers complete applications.
Important to note that farm operators in their application will have to produce tax returns, property tax bills, and a deed. It was noted that this was seen as a burden, especially where intergenerational arrangements are in place, but CHT/UVM are going to stick with secured loans at this point. Again, there is application help available.
The focus is safety and health, anything that will improve housing conditions, and the health and comfort of workers. For each project there will be a scope of work, application, site visit, and follow-up. Contractors to do the repairs can be identified by the farmer or referred by CHT, but it was suggested that they meet some performance standards.
Juntos (Middlebury College Group)
Juntos, a Middlebury College student organization, aims to help migrants in many ways. They support the Mexican consulate visit each year and in 2017 produced a brochure on Immigrants in the U.S. Myth vs. Fact. They invite you to share it to explain the obstacles to legalization. They seek volunteers to tutor English at their classes on campus when the college is in session and perhaps on farms over the summer or other times. In Spring 2022 Juntos resumed in-person classes and offers them on Sundays afternoons on campus. ESL classes are also offered at CVUUS on Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 to 11 am at CVUUS in the Fellowship Hall. For more about Juntos, see here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Middlebury SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice)
SURJ Mobilizes Addison County residents to attend events demanding justice for farmworkers and human rights for all, hosts movie screenings, and petitions for needed funds for BIPOC causes (including migrant workers). Films include The Long Ride the story of the historic 2003 Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and Dolores (Dolores Huerta, less known warrior in the ongoing fight for racial and labor justice) at Middlebury’s Marquis Theater.
Many attended a demonstration in June 2018 in Burlington starting at top of Church St and ending at Battery Park. Showing Up for Racial Justice demonstrated the same day at the ICE facility in Rouses’s Point NY.]
Viva el Sabor
Viva el Sabor was formed in 2021 with the support of the Addison Allies Network, as well as Little Village Enterprises. Paul Ralston of New Haven, former owner of Vermont Coffee Company, helped launch the latter social venture to address economic inequities. Local chefs, businesses, a church, the regional culinary arts program and dozens of volunteers — including Gloria Estela González Zenteno (pictured right) — donated their time, kitchen space and equipment to an inaugural event in summer 2021.
The pop-up Fiesta in 2021 proved Vermonters’ taste for the food that Viva el Sabor members cook for their families and fellow Latin Americans and generated leads on catering opportunities and events for which the members could cook. See more in a Seven Days article about them here. Another Fiesta happened in Aug 2023.
CVUUS provides space for members of Viva el Sabor to plan and receive essential trainings such food safety, food production and speaking English (Tues and Thur mornings with Rebecca Holmes, Joan Stevens and others).
CVUUS hosted a book talk in June 2022 on Gloria’s new novel Arribada about confronting social and environmental justice. Viva el Sabor provided complimentary appetizers and sold food.
Many gathered in June 2023 to discuss A Most Costly Journey: Stories of Migrant Farmworkers in VT while enjoying Guatemalan food prepared by one of the Viva el Sabor chefs.
Viva el Sabor is in transition, seeking a new director and its relationship to a newly forming community kitchen project.
Cheryl Mitchell and Susannah McCandless and other board members advocate for fair treatment of migrant workers. They’ve been helping them pursue other career paths such as becoming certified day care providers and chefs and escorting them through the process of setting up businesses and filing taxes. They organize The Most Costly Journey book discussions. See trelevenfarm.org for more.
UU Service Committee (UUSC)
UUSC focuses their grant-making and partner support on grassroots organizations working for systemic change. They believe that connecting groups across the migrant trail from El Salvador to Mexico to the United States will create a strong movement centered on the rights of people, not borders.
Learn more about how they do this work:
- UUSC Heads to the Capitol to Support Central American Immigrants
- Flood the Desert Action Highlights Dire Need to Support, Uplift Migrants
- Homestead: Who’s Profiting from Detaining Kids?
Here are some of their partners:
- Freedom for Immigrants
- Fundación Para la Justicia y El Estado Democrático de Derecho
- Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
- No More Deaths
- UndocuBlack Network
Learn about the wider work of UUSC here.
Resisting Deportation: Several local attorneys have been involved in efforts to resist deportation in coordination with ACLU and Migrant Justice, including Emily Joselson, Erin Ruble, Pam Marsh and Wanda Otero Weavor (802-363-3799). See here for an interesting and informative article with various perspectives and strategies of which to be aware.
Immigrant Rights: Watch this 2-hour livestream training, How to Give a “Know-Your-Rights” Presentation for Immigrants, presented by the Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) in collaboration with the CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) project at CUNY School of Law and The Center for Constitutional Rights. The link is here. Note that the training itself starts about 3 minutes after the video starts.
Refer to Know Your Rights booklet (KYR).
One page “Know Your Rights” pamphlets published by ACLU, in English and Spanish: ACLU – Know Your Rights – English-v01 ACLU Know Your Rights Spanish-v01 and a friendlier KYR flyer to share with workers developed by Migrant Justice: KYR Spanish Version.
Estrellita: Short award-winning film (~7 min) made by Middlebury College that poignantly depicts the cruel separation of undocumented families here in VT.
The film was inspired by the VT farmworker comic book project by the Open Door Clinic and VT Folk Life Center that we featured in a CVUUS Summer Spirituality and the Arts worship. The hope is that through visual art and storytelling, this film can bring attention to the realities of our immigration policy and create momentum for change. Feel free to share the video link with friends, on FB and other social media outlets. Let’s make this go viral and keep the conversation going!
National Organizing: One of the best things we can do to help is write to officials to push and thank for legislation changes. Over half of all United States farm workers are undocumented, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and over 8 million undocumented immigrants contribute to America’s workforce, according to Pew Research Center. Read more here: Leahy Calls for Blue Card for Farmworkers UUs
Spanish Language Practice: Some are working to help farmers and volunteers learn basic Spanish needed on dairy farms (e.g., don’t milk that cow, close the gate). ESL teacher Rebecca Holmes recommends offering Oxford Picture Dictionary (Eng/Span) to help farmers point to what they are trying to communicate.
Spanish Books: Here’s the list so far: Spanish book library The books are at Veronica Ciambra’s home in Middlebury for now, so just let her know if you have a request.
Transportation: Inform workers on how to obtain driver’s licenses and provide driving practice.
Driver Privilege Cards
Several workers are in the process of getting driver privilege cards. They need to get to various appointments and practice driving. Most (if not all) already know how to drive, it’s a matter of learning how to pass the test. Handouts in Spanish to help are here: How to license – Spanish2022
If you know a worker interested in buying a car, direct the worker to mechanic/car dealer Dave Wimett in Leicester. This is the place to go in Addison County. He can do registration right there as well.
Spanish Language AA Meeting: Online Spanish speaking AA meetings are available. See some listed here.
Cell Phone Protection: Workers rely on cell phones to stay in touch with one another, their families abroad and to use the internet. Share this useful resource guide to cell phone protection.
Using a Prepaid Credit Card to Buy Things on the Internet: Teach migrants how to acquire and use prepaid credit cards. Then the can make purchases online using their smart phones, which they all have but don’t know how to fully utilize as a computer. Barbara Ekedahl has so enthusiastically and competently put together an English/Spanish “how to”: Buying Things Online (2).
Wiring Money Home: Hannaford’s in Middlebury discontinued its Western Union service as of 2/7/2018. Please let any workers you come into contact with know this. In looking online, it seems that Middlebury’s Kinney Drug and all Shaws stores (Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes) have Western Union money transfer services.