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Adán on his Oaxaca farm. Adán on his Oaxaca farm.

Program lets workers enter US legally

Oaxaca farm workers off to Florida to pick tomatoes through federal labor program

A variation on the American dream will send 56 farm workers from Oaxaca to Florida next month and all of them will cross the border legally.

The workers, aged 23 to 40, will work on the tomato harvest through an agreement between the federal labor service and the United States firm Lipman Produce.

Depending on the work available and their performance, the laborers will be able to remain employed for three to eight months.

A Oaxaca farm worker will earn on average 150 pesos (less than US $7.50) per day. In the U.S. that worker will earn just over $11 an hour.

Adán is one of those workers. He lives in San Francisco Cotahuixtla in the municipality of Santiago Nacaltepec where he farms the family land, two hectares he inherited from his father.

The tomatoes, peaches and beans that are grown in the area are sold in the town and in the state capital, but “earnings are variable,” he told the newspaper Milenio, because success depends on seasonal rainfall.

Adán is not only after American dollars. He wants to learn from the sowing, cultivation and harvesting techniques used by Lipman Produce and apply them to his own land.

The 25-year-old, married and father of one, is proud to be going to “el otro lado,” or “the other side,” to work. He’s afraid, though, “because the president there is racist, he doesn’t want or like us Mexicans.”

Despite the fact they are traveling legally and have all the necessary documentation, there is disquiet among the workers.

Pablo, 40, works his brother’s land in Guadalupe Hidalgo, a town in San Lorenzo Cacaotepec.

“Once there I don’t know what they’ll tell us, or do to us. When we were interviewed [for the job], we were told we would have all our papers and that we would be treated the same as [other workers], but who knows,” he told Milenio.

Whatever the outcome, Pablo wants to make a good impression and, if possible, return next year. He already has plans for the fruit of his American dream: “I currently rent, and need to build my own house.”

Pablo’s dream may come true because according to the federal labor service, part of the Labor Secretariat, the demand for farm workers from Oaxaca has nearly doubled this year over last.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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