Tag Archives: migrant farmworkers

Spartan Youth Program

by Teri Wilcox

In the summer parents are looking for activities that will keep their children busy until school resumes.

The Spartan Youth Program, SYP, website is the perfect place for parents to explore and find something that fit their child.

The Spartan Youth Program website is a source parent’s can use to find activities for their children, said Carla Hills, Communications Manager for the Michigan State University unit. Almost none of the programs, activities, or camps are generated by SYP, Hills said.

The chief mission of the Spartan Youth Program is to link work from different faculty members at MSU on to the website, Hills said.

Building collaborations and partnerships with the community is also a part of their mission, Hills said. 

SYP have programs listed that are offered for children in the pre-kindergarten stage to 12th grade.

One of the SYP topics is on agriculture. With in that topic one the of the programs that is offered is called breakfast on the farm.

Bssically families are given the opportunity to see how farmers work and live first hand.

Under the same topic you will find the College Assistance Migrant Program and the High School Equivalency Program.

The High School Equivalency Program helps migrants get their General Education Development certifacte.

The College Assistance Program helps students with different resources that they will need. For example, tutors.


Spartan Youth Program at MSU- Editorial

I love the fact that there is a website that connects the community with the different programs that faculty at Michigan State University are putting together.

Usually parents are collecting flyers that are advertising different camps and programs for their child over the summer.

I remember my mother taking the newspaper and cutting out different advertisements about basketball camps in Kalamazoo, MI that I could go to.

The Spartan Youth Program helps eliminate the collecting of flyers and newspaper clippings.

Not only does the website make it easier for parents to find activities for their children to do over the summer but they have choices for migrant farm workers and their children.

With the amount of hard work migrant farm workers put in on a daily basis they should be able to have the same benefits as anyone else.

There is a College Assistance Migrant Program that helps migrant students stay in school to get there college degree.

On top of that Michigan State University has a High School Equivalency Program for Migrant or Seasonal farm workers who does not have a high school diploma or anything that is of equal value.

You have to be 16 years old or 17 years old to qualify.

Giving migrant farm workers and their children an opportunity to do more things than just being farm workers is great.

I hope to find more information about programs at different universities that are helping migrant farm workers and their children.

Annie Perry: Blog 10

When I started this class, I barely knew what a migrant farmworker was. It seems silly and is completely embarrassing, but it’s true. I knew there was migrant housing near my cottage in Ontario, but for some reason, I thought migrant farming was something exclusive to that area. I didn’t realize thousands of migrant farmworkers came to Michigan annually, and I didn’t realize how many legislative and social issues surrounded them. Put frankly, when it comes to migrant farming, I’ve spent my entire life living under a rock.

I was skeptical when my professor announced we’d spend the semester covering migrant farmworkers. Migrant farmworkers? I thought. How am I supposed to do three stories, ten blog posts, and one final projects on that?!

I was wrong. While I spent my time covering families, there were many other elements of migrant life I could have written about: legislature, immigration issues, health, education, childcare, migrant resources, culture. Agriculture is one of the largest industries in the state, and without migrant farmworkers, that industry would collapse. The writing possibilities seem almost endless.

Working on the final project has helped me tie all of these elements together. My group is focusing on different issues—self-identity, migrant resources, immigration, education, health, and religion—and showing how these issues relate to each other and to family. Because I spent all semester covering family, it’s giving me some closure for the semester and my time writing about migrant families. Family is an important part to migrant life and its dynamic can create issues, but it is also a factor in other problems migrant farmworkers face. For me, this project is giving my work context and showing how it fits into the bigger picture.

In August, I was clueless about migrant farmworkers, but these past few months, made me aware of a group that needs to be recognized and supported. After all, they do a job that helps support our economy—and a job 99 percent of Americans don’t want to do themselves.

Cultural and Socioeconomic Factors Prevent Migrants From Seeking Therapy

Therapy isn’t simply sitting on a couch and telling a stranger how you feel; it can be conducted in a variety of settings, such as therapy within the entire family. But because of cultural differences and socioeconomic barriers, therapy is not an option all families choose.

Kimberle Kwasnick is a therapist at the Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing, whose funding supports issues with substance abuse. Cristo Rey offers therapy sessions in both English and Spanish, and is one of the only facilities in the area to do so.

Kwasnick, who does not hold the Spanish sessions, said these sessions are helpful because there aren’t many other places that speak Spanish.

“We get people from Clinton, Eaton, Ingham counties because there’s no other Spanish-speaking groups,” Kwasnick said. “[Some clients are] much more comfortable reading and writing in Spanish. Even though they can speak English, they’d rather have materials to read in Spanish.”

Though the sessions in Spanish are a helpful resource, Kwasnick said it is more common to have sessions in English. Despite Spanish-speaking domestic violence and substance abuse groups Cristo Rey offers, Kwasnick said she hasn’t had any migrant families in her therapy sessions.

When the health clinic at Cristo Rey goes to rural areas to provide healthcare for the migrant workers, they also screen workers to see if they need therapy. Kwasnick says the families never say they need therapy.

“There’s never any mental health issues,” she said. “That’s what they’ll tell you. They’re very private about family issues.”

There are two main reasons why migrant farmworkers generally do not seek therapy. Penny Burrillo, who previously worked with the Department of Social Services, said therapy is not something that is prevalent in the migrant culture. Migrant families also typically keep their family lives private and have different ways of looking at dealing with stresses or problems.

“The family unit … usually tries to resolve that, and after that, they go to the church,” Burrillo said.

“They won’t air what’s going on in their family in front of someone else,” Kwasnick said. “If it’s within the family, it stays within the family.”

Burrillo added that migrant farmworkers usually do not have much education and come from another country, so therapy or counseling offered in English is “sticking a stick in their eye.” She believes a lack of language, education, and transportation are all socioeconomic barriers that would affect access to any kind of therapy.

Research conducted by organizations supporting migrant farmworkers back up Burrillo’s belief. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Farmworker Health and published in 2009, 26 percent of surveyed U.S. migrant farmworkers said they could speak “a little” English, while 44 percent said they could not speak English “at all.” The results also reported that the median level of education was sixth grade, with 13 percent of those surveyed completing third grade or below.

Migrant farmworkers also face financial issues that prevent them from accessing therapy. According to the Migrant Clinicians Network website, most farmworkers earn annual incomes below the poverty level, with half earning below $7,500 per year. Cristo Rey offers assistance for substantial abuse treatment, but finances can be a block between a family and therapy.

“When you talk about therapy, it’s more about people who are affluent and who have education, but another problem is access,” Burrillo said.

While involved with the Department of Social Services, Burrillo also served on the Migrant Resource Council, a group of individuals and organizations who provide different services for migrants. The council itself does not provide services, but Burrillo said that if migrants went to the Migrant Health Clinic, they could be  referred to a place that addresses mental health. In addition, if a patient has some kid of Medicaid or HMO, they might be referred to counseling.

“But again, even in Oceana and Mason counties, where there is a high population of migrant farmworkers, therapists or medical professionals that speak Spanish—which is the main language—would be next to none,” Burrillo said.

These barriers do not only affect a family’s ability to access therapy; they can have an impact on a child’s education and possible counseling, as well. Burrillo said that if a child of a migrant farmworker has special needs, many times they do not get those evaluations sent with them when they move from school to school.

“Schools might want to offer counseling for parents and children,” she said. “But how do you do that if you don’t have someone who is culturally competent and speaks the language of … the parent?”

By Annie Perry

Seniors Find “Home Outside of Home” at Cristo Rey Community Center

Guadalupe Delgado Jr. wanted to relearn Spanish. Refugia Gonzales was lonely and wanted something to do. Both Lansing-area residents ended up in the Senior Program at Cristo Rey Community Center.

According to the Cristo Rey website, the Tri-County Office on Aging began funding the Senior Program in 1977, “to meet the needs of the Spanish Speaking elderly who were unable to access their traditional services because of language, culture, transportation and other barriers.” It says the program provides a senior day center, a meal program, and information and referral, and is the only Hispanic senior program in the Lansing community.

Aside from donations for meals, the program is free to join. Members come on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, but the busiest days are Tuesday and Thursday. Senior Program Coordinator Sally Arias said that of the 40 registered members, around 15-25 generally come on Tuesday and Thursday. Arias added that the majority of the members are women; there are only two or three men in the program.

Delgado started coming to the Senior Program about a year ago, but already knew about Cristo Rey. The community center used to house an elementary school, where Delgado taught third grade.

Spanish was Delgado’s first language, but he said he spoke English during his eight years in the service and had to relearn his native language.

“They force you to speak Spanish,” he joked.

Members come to Cristo Rey to socialize and for a small meal. While they’re there, they visit with one another, watch television, occasionally do a small craft, and play bingo. Arias said there’s a regular group that always comes to play bingo.

“They could play bingo day and night,” she said.

Like Delgado, Gonzales has been coming to the Senior Program for about a year. She said she had never played bingo before, but she’s getting the hang of it.

Though many members play bingo, Arias said two women in their 90s regularly come and choose to socialize or watch television instead.

The group generally meets at the Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing, but they occasionally take field trips. Arias organized a casino trip for the group in August. She was originally worried that she wouldn’t be able to fill the charter bus she rented, but on the day of the trip, the bus was full and she had more members interested in going. She said the members are already asking when they’re going to take another trip.

“That’s going to have to wait until after the new year,” she said, laughing.

Not all of the members of the Senior Program are associated with migrant farming, but Arias said she thinks some were migrant workers in the past. Arias’ family used to be migrant workers—they would travel to Stockbridge, Mich., to pick cabbage and other vegetables.

For many of the members, the Senior Program at Cristo Rey is a place where they can go and feel comfortable, especially for those who live alone.

Arias and Roberto Quiroga, who also works with the Senior Program, both said that many prefer coming to the community center over staying at home.

“They come to talk with each other,” Quiroga said. “If they stay home, they say, ‘We’re getting crazy!’ because they don’t have too much to do.”

“They kind of consider this their own little home outside of their home,” Arias said. “The 94-year-old [woman], I know a few days she wasn’t feeling good, and I told her, ‘Why don’t you just stay home?’ She said, ‘No, I  don’t want to stay home. I don’t want to be there all by myself.’ So after that, I don’t say anything.”

Delgado said the Senior Program is a comfortable place because many of the members come from the same area.

“Most of these people come from the same state—Texas—and there’s a certain lifestyle in Texas that’s different from California or New Mexico,” he said. “They speak the same thing that I do, and that’s why it feels more like home.”

The Senior Program is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit www.cristo-rey.org.

By Annie Perry

Cultural and Legislative Barriers Block Migrants From Available Services

In 2005, the Michigan Department of Human Services spent more than $6.5 million on migrant services, according to a DHS Migrant Health Report.

The Migrant Resource Council, established in 1978 by the Michigan DHS, aims to provide services for the state’s migrant farmworkers. But despite the efforts of the nearly 18 offices and councils in Michigan, cultural and legislative barriers prevent farmworkers from seeking and receiving these services.

Easy clearance into the migrant camps

Each Migrant Resource Council in Michigan has an outreach programs, where council members travel to the camps and to help the migrant farmworkers. Jose Galaviz, who serves on the Allegan/Ottowa/Barry Migrant Resource Council, said that they also give growers information while at the camps, and “try to help them find new ways in helping the migrant farmworkers.”

However, regulations and restrictions can keep the workers from the Migrant Resource Councils from going into the camps to do outreach at certain times.

“[Growers] don’t like their families to be disturbed from working,” Galaviz said. “Even though there’s families in the camp that we may still be able to service or talk to, that creates an issue, a barrier, from any service agency.”

Specific agency work

In addition to serving on the Migrant Resource Council, Galaviz is a chairperson for the Michigan Department of Human Services. The agencies affiliated with the Migrant Resource council have certain procedures, policies, and regulations that must be adhered to, all of which can act as a barrier against direct assistance for the migrant farmworkers.

“Sometimes those policies may not be as favorable as everybody thinks in terms of … being able to deliver that service to the families that need it outside the office, because you’re doing special projects, because your work doesn’t allow it, you’re too busy,” Galaviz said. “If you spend 80 percent doing paperwork and 20 percent doing outreach, and then you have those other barriers there sometimes, you’re not as able to service them as you really want to.”

Transportation and regulations on licenses

Since 2008, applicants for state ID cards in Michigan have been required by law to provide proof of legal presence, according to a document released by the state. This law prevents undocumented workers from renewing their driver’s license or getting a new license, leaving many workers to rely on others for transportation.

“When they’re coming from Florida or other states, they’re taking transportations from their crew leaders, or there’s people that bring them up to Michigan,” Galaviz said. “Those people that are brought up to the farms up here in Michigan, then most of those folks don’t have any transportation.”

Galaviz said that farmworkers are able to get transportation to many places they need, but often medical appointments or appointments with DHS are not included. This barrier increases the importance of the outreach the Migrant Resource Councils and similar programs do.

“It’s important to go out there because it’s not only your services that you’re providing as a worker, because you also have to keep in mind that you belong to this greater group: the Resource Council,” Galaviz said. “If I talk to a family and I know that … my neighboring agency can help them with clothing or food, or any other service—immigration, maybe—then I can refer them to those agencies. So it’s important for me to be involved in this group and the Migrant Resource Council because that way I learn what kind of services everyone else can give and how I can service my own families with that information.”

Busy families

When families need counseling or mental health services, the Migrant Resource Councils have resources and programs the families can be referred to, but these services are not used a lot due to the busy lifestyle families lead.

Because the families work long hours and move from place to place, many times the most they receive is health screening. Galaviz said that many of the migrant farmworkers get health screenings from outreach done by the InterCare health programs, and are often surprised to find out they may have high blood pressure or be borderline diabetic. But sometimes, services such as counseling and mental health are not used at all.

“The families, they don’t stay here very long, so a lot of them probably would say, you know, ‘Yeah, we can get help, but let’s just wait until we go to Florida. We’ll get it there,’ and then they’ll probably use that as an excuse,” Galaviz said. “And then they’re in Florida and they’ll say the same thing.”

Culture-specific family dynamics

A busy lifestyle may keep migrant farmworkers from seeking counseling, but cultural factors also influence a family’s decision.

“Living so close to everyone else can create that need of security, of keeping away from other families’ business,” Galaviz said. “And sometimes, because they want to guard their families so much … they keep everything inside their little home.” Galaviz added that this can keep families from seeking help.

Ramiro Gonzales, a social worker at Michigan State University who works with students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds, sees similar behavior from the students he works with. He said students still come in when they’re “in crisis mode,” and that many are not very comfortable talking about their personal problems with a counselor.

The need to keep information within the home heightens when families are undocumented. Galaviz said that being an undocumented worker is the biggest barrier keeping migrant families from seeking help and services.

“If there’s a family that’s undocumented, that family’s gonna be more guarded of who they go and talk to,” he said.

Galaviz said there are many factors that keep migrant farmworkers from seeking assistance and help, even in general sessions, which is why the Migrant Resource Councils provide outreach to the workers and families.

“That’s why we use those events to get a lot of people out there, and use those events in a positive way,” Galaviz said. “And then give all that information that we wanted to give.”


Migrant Resource Council sidebar

Source: Michigan Department of Human Services

By Annie Perry




Connecting Family Dynamics to Outside Issues

Family dynamics diagram

What's all this about?

Your family affects you more profoundly than you might think.

A family’s dynamic and the way children are raised shapes many facets of each family member’s life. It can play an important role in developing a sense of identity, making college decisions, handling problems, attitudes toward money and finances, and religious choices.

Migrant farmworkers are no exception. Family life, their cultural background, and the lifestyle migrant workers lead impacts the resources that are available to them and the decisions they make.

Ramiro Gonzales, a social worker at Michigan State University, works with students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds and said these students generally come from “tight-knit families.” This family closeness affects them while they’re off at school—Gonzales said some feel like going to college “takes something away from the family, because they could be working, bringing in money to help their parents.”

A migrant family’s background also impacts the way they seek help and services. Gonzales said that migrant families tend to not want to tap into public assistance or social services until “they are in such dire need that they have no other choice but to ask for help.”

In addition, the migrant lifestyle and family dynamics created as a result affects a family’s ability to receive health services. It creates complications with getting transportation between migrant camps and outside locations, especially when a family is undocumented. It impacts self-identity, especially when a family member identifies himself or herself as LGBT.

Because different aspects of migrant life connect back to family, we created this infographic to tie the subjects together and show how interrelated the concepts are. On this website, you’ll find individual stories and narratives illustrating how immigration, health, education, self identity, resources, and religion affect migrant farmworkers, and how these topics ultimately return to family life and dynamics.

Annie Perry: Blog 9

On Nov. 18, I attended the 2011 Conference for Michigan’s Farmworkers, Service Providers, and Growers. I was only able to go to the first general session in the morning, which was a panel with the directors from various departments and agencies in the state.

When Anjana and I got to the conference, I had no idea what to expect. We knew the session we could attend was not directly applicable to our final project, but I came prepared with my reporter’s notebook and audio recorder, just in case. I kept telling myself that it would be a valuable experience, even if we did not make any contacts or get any interviews for our project.

The panel was interesting and informative, and I took pages and pages of notes in my little notebook, even though the directors did not talk about family dynamics, the overall focus of our project. The directors talked about what their agencies and departments are doing, and how they help migrant farmworkers. Speakers included directors from the Michigan Department of Human Services, the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Michigan Work Force Development Agency, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. They spoke on policy issues, public health efforts, making changes in migrant living and working conditions, finding ways to bring more farmworkers to Michigan, and the impact farmworkers have on the agriculture industry.

I’ve been covering migrant farmworkers the entire semester, but I never realized exactly how many people in the state work to improve services for these workers. Because I was writing about families and the issues they face, I never really thought about what other problems could be out there and which departments in the state were trying to combat them. According to Gordon Wenk, chief deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, more than 38 crops in Michigan depend on farmworkers to be harvested. I didn’t even know Michigan produced 38 different kinds of crops, let alone that that was the number that needed these farmworkers to survive. To me, that shows the major impact migrant farmworkers have on Michigan’s economy and how vital it is to ensure that Michigan is place they want to come and work in.

Anjana and I ended up getting an interview for our article—we talked to Jose Galaviz, who works for Allegan County Department of Human Services and serves on that area’s Migrant Resource Council. But I’m glad we attended the conference, regardless; it gave me a better understanding of an important issue in our state.

Migrant Families Act as a ‘Unit,’ Tackle Unique Stresses Together

When Sally Arias’ parents worked in the fields as migrant farm workers, she stayed home with her younger sisters. She would fix a light meal for her sisters, and when the neighbors came over, she acted as a nanny for all of them.

“It was a ‘thing we had to do’ type of thing, so they just left us in charge,” she said. She was around 9 or 10 years old.

Arias is now the Senior Program coordinator at the Cristo Rey Community Center in Lansing, a center that provides help to the Lansing Hispanic community, including migrant farm workers. Even with help, many migrant families still experience similar situations to Arias’. She acted as her siblings’ nanny in the 1960s, but today’s migrant families still must rely on each other. Migrant families face difficulties, but the challenges and the lifestyle they lead create close family dynamics.

“[A family is] a unit, and that unit needs each other to survive,” Luis Garcia, director of Migrant Student Services at Michigan State University, said. “It’s one thing for people to say they travel together, but to work together day in and day out as a family unit, it really makes it a very interesting and unique family dynamic.”

Depending on one another may be a challenge, but Garcia said it also can strengthen a family.

“Everybody’s survival depends on how well everybody does,” Garcia said. “Everybody’s a contributor. Everybody’s carrying their weight. … [The money] goes to the general pot, and those who manage that general pot of money determine how much can you keep of it.”

Garcia also oversees the College Assistance Migrant Scholars Program (CAMP Scholars) at Michigan State, an all-freshman program for students from families involved in migrant farming. In the CAMP program, students attend school full-time and are required to take at least 12 credit hours. They are able to work 12-15 hours a week, which generally takes place on campus. Garcia said that a reason the majority of the students work is to send money home to the family.

“It is not uncommon for students to tell us, ‘I’m concerned because my family might lose their vehicle because we can’t make payments, or they might lose their home.’” Garcia said. “These are the realities that they live under, and I don’t think, for the most part, our regular student body has to confront those issues.”

For migrant families, having a student go away to college affects the family as a whole.

“Many times, the family has to calculate that this is going to have an impact on the family’s earnings by having one less employee in their household,” Garcia said. “It becomes more of a burden to the family as the student leaves.”

Migrant families have unique stresses placed on them, even if all of their children are living at home. Arias said moving multiple times in a short period can be hard on a family.

“I remember one time … for that summer, we moved about 2-3 times,” Arias said. “It was as if my family was chasing the crops.”

When she was 12 or 13 years old, Arias’ father got a job in Eaton Rapids, Mich., and her family settled in nearby Stockbridge. She worked on a farm in Stockbridge during the summers with her mother and sisters, and said that life was easier after her family settled.

“Seems like it was so much easygoing up here and easier, probably because we didn’t have to pick up and move again,” Arias said.

There are living difficulties other than moving multiple times. Garcia said that even the biggest migrant homes may only have two bedrooms, which creates a difficult situation when families of six people live in them.

“You have to accommodate to the circumstances in every which way,” Garcia said.

Though migrant families have experiences that are not typical in settled families, these two types still share similarities.

“Everybody wants the best for their children,” Garcia said. “[Migrant families] want to be able to live and thrive in their community, but their socioeconomic realities are such that they’ve got to focus on survival.”

By Annie Perry

Annie Perry: Blog 8

 Alabama may be enacting its toughest legislation on immigration, but other laws are being considered to help children of immigrants receive an education and become permanent citizens.

According to the summary released by the National Immigration Law Center, “The DREAM Act is bipartisan legislation that addresses the tragedy of young people who grew up in the United States and have graduated from our high schools, but whose future is circumscribed by our current immigration laws.” It seeks to change the current law, which states that children earn their immigration status from their parents, even if they have spent most of their lives in this country.

Under the DREAM Act, most students would qualify for conditional permanent resident status if they came to the U.S. at age 15 or younger at least five years before the bill is enacted and maintained “good moral character” while in the country. These students would gain this status when they are accepted to college, graduate for a U.S. high school, or are awarded a GED.

This act would affect migrant families from Mexico, since many of the children receive an education while their family travels. As seen by MSU’s CAMP Scholars program, it’s also not uncommon for these children to attend college.

While I think the DREAM Act is an important step in American legislation, what happens to the migrant families whose parents face the challenges of tough immigration laws and children are protected under the DREAM Act? Will this act give students better opportunities, but take them away from their parents?

A few state-level laws have been enacted regarding the bill, including in California and Illinois. But in order for the bill to be truly successful, there needs to be a balance in immigration legislation.