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Bottom of the Food Chain

Exposing herself to the more dangerous side of life, Suarez walks in the shoes of an immigrant farm worker for a day. Enlightened to the grueling labor conditions and exploitation of undocumented workers, Suarez presents her stance on the American political controversy of immigration.

“What do you think of our crazy Mexicans?” asked the fat overseer of the South Apopka Farm as we unloaded ourselves onto another patch of pickles. We had been de-weeding since 7:30 a.m. that morning and the group of us girls, along with the undocumented workers, were exhausted.
We had only worked for four hours and were complaining of back pain, joint pain, hip pain, et cetera. These “crazy Mexicans,” as the fat man called them, did this grueling work five, sometimes six days a week from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. That’s not even the worst of it. These workers make $7.25 an hour, with 50% of their profit going to the fat man. Since these workers were undocumented and the fat man was, he could do anything he wanted to them. Really, who could they report him to without being terrified of being sent back to where they came from? These men — and women — work harder than anyone else I have met, doing back-breaking work in hot, unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Not only can the workers suffer from heat stroke, but the company also sprays pesticides right next to workers, even while they are working. Only when the chemicals get too close are they asked to move to another field.

Why would men suffer through such a job that is not only dangerous to one’s health, but isn’t worth it’s weight in gold?

Marcello – that was the fat overseer’s name. The men in the field spoke ill of him, talking about how he’ll cheat them out of a day’s work of pay and force them to work insufferable hours in terrible conditions all day with no bathroom breaks except during lunch where the workers themselves occasionally don’t bring anything with them. They live in housing controlled by Marcello, and if or when he ever wants you out, you’re out; he need not give you any notice. Why would men suffer through such a job that is not only dangerous to one’s health, but isn’t worth it’s weight in gold?
Undocumented immigrants, more commonly referred to as illegals, face life-threatening circumstances in their home countries. In Mexico, if the cartels haven’t forced you into drug-pushing or killed and mutilated the ones you love, there is still a threat of a level of poverty that would make Americans blush. These people who cross the border, like the farm-workers with whom we worked, say that if Mexico were better, if the cartels were gone and if Mexico’s infrastructure was rebuilt, that they would go back. But these men, women and children, who all faced the terrible experience of border-crossing, must remain here until that day when they don’t have to walk into their home village and see the heads of friends and family hanging from a tree as a warning from the cartels to obey their laws. When one thinks about it, the workers get the shortest stick: they live in constant fear of either being deported, which means being separated from their families, or fear of impoverished conditions and drug lords who spare no one. Marco Rubio is currently composing a bill to reform immigration laws, but all I hear people saying is that these workers are taking our jobs, don’t pay taxes and are dangerous. Well, with that said, let me clear up some of these accusations
1. The food we eat is cheap. Why? It’s cheap because undocumented workers pick it. These workers make minimum wage and are often times even cut from that.

2. Undocumented workers do indeed pay taxes. Since the IRS and immigration do not communicate, the IRS can give out numbers (similar to that of social security numbers) and demand payments on work, homes, et cetera. However, these workers do not get any of the benefits of being a taxpayer. Not only are they taken to the cleaners, but they are also forced to work there for nothing in return.

3. The men with whom I worked with were the hardest working group of men I had ever met. They were also some of the funniest. Considering the constant threat of deportation looming over their heads and the lack of pay and job security, their jokes and cheery dispositions baffled me. They were no more a threat than I am to you.

Despite how the country feels about immigration, the facts are as follows: “illegals” provide a cheap source of labor that allows us to continue to buy our milk for three dollars; they indeed are taking jobs, but not from anyone who wants them; and finally, if we deported all of the undocumented immigrants, then our agricultural workforce would fall apart. It doesn’t matter what you were raised to think of them. I think it’s important to remember that these workers are people with dreams and jobs, just like us. The only difference is that we’re protected under our laws, and they are not.

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