Migrant Farmworker Support in Addison County

Seeking Drivers: Through the pandemic farm workers were needing less rides and many of the people with licenses were providing rides to other workers.  Addison Allies provided a list of drivers.  Many of the most reliable people on that list of drivers have either left the area or do not have a car at this time.  Plus more workers are needing rides.  Contact Veronica is you can help (vchiambra@gmail.com).

ACLU Petition Action to Shut Down ICE Detention Machine: More here.

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 winter.

Mexican Consulate Visit at CVUUS

For four of the past five years CVUUS has been the site for the Boston-based mobile Consulate. Pre-pandemic people who attended could get health Checks, winter clothing, legal and banking aid, childcare, tamales and more at this festive community event.

In 2019 Consulate staff processed 153 legal documents for Vermont residents at the Middlebury event. No consulate visit occurred in 2020 due to COVID.  In November 2021 we hosted the event again and the Consulate processed 200 legal documents for 140 Mexican citizens. Volunteers safely provided food and drinks, information tables, preventative health checks, parking guidance and greeting and child care so parents could take care of business and relax.

The next Consulate visit is Sat. Oct 29, 2022. To participate contact Laura Asermily at office@cvuus.org.

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. 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 addisonalliesnetwork@gmail.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 vciambra@gmail.com or addisonalliesnetwork@gmail.com. She’s pictured in red shirt.

You can find their mission and list of accomplishments here: Addison Allies Accomplishments with mission

Accomplishments

  • “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- claire.bove@uvm.edu, (802) 476-2003. There is also a program that includes English language study for workers under age 23. (802-476-2003 ext. 223 or alexandra.houghton@uvm.edu)

http://www.osymigrant.org/EnglishWorkbook_VT.pdf http://www.osymigrant.org/EnglishTeacherGuide_VT.pdf http://www.osymigrant.org/Problem-PosingESL_VT.pdf

http://www.osymigrant.org/AdultELLclassesTN.pdf

Migrant Justice

Migrant Justice, based in Burlington, is most know 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

NOFA

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. Plenty of opportunities for involvement in pushing for better housing. Contact Lise Anderson for more info 734-255-3434

Lise participated in a recent Champlain Housing Trust (CHT)/UVM Extension call about the recently funded 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 is 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.

Farmers are invited to call or email Charlie Glassberg at Champlain Housing Trust   cglassberg@getahome.org or call (802) 810-8217 or Becca Heine at UVM Extension  802-503-2375 rebeccaheine@uvm.edu.

Juntos (Middlebury College Group)

Juntosa 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. Contact Brandon Cuatlatl (bcuatlatl@middlebury.edu) if you know of someone who would like either online or in person classes and needs specifics on campus location and time.  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 juntos@middlebury.edu.

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.

A pop-up 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. Contact: Haley Jones (vivaelsabor2021@gmail.com). See more in a Seven Days article about them here.

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 Becky Holmes and others).

CVUUS looks forward to hosting a book talk later this year on Gloria’s new novel Arribada about confronting social and environmental justice.

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:

Here are some of their partners:

Get active in UUSC’s work to advance and promote justice for Central Americans!

Learn about the wider work of UUSC here.

Resources

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 computerBarbara 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.