June 25, 2013

Immigrant Women and The Agricultural Industrial Complex

The structure of the agricultural industrial complex fosters more than genetically modified foods that poison not only humans but animals and the soil. Like the industrialization of other industries, this commercial structure produces multilevel problems for societies around the world—each having serious consequences for individuals. An important negative outcome is that the agricultural industrial complex provides the perfect environment for economic oppression and physical abuse. 

If we don’t give a damn about the injustices suffered by “those people” whether they live in our neighborhood, in another part of the country, or a continent away we are all going to perish under the enormous weight of the unnatural structures constructed by oppressive forces. Maricruz Ladino's story of survival, poverty, rape, and industrialized farming will air tonight on PBS. Check your local listings. The article below by Neil Genzilinger is reposted from The New York Times.

Documentary Investigates Sexual Exploitation at Farms Across the U.S.

Photo Credit: Andres Cediel
Plenty about the ways that much of our food is raised and processed is dismaying. Tuesday night’s “Frontline” on PBS, “Rape in the Fields,” makes the picture considerably darker, exploring persistent allegations that female workers are often sexually assaulted and harassed by supervisors who exploit their immigrant status. 

The charges aren’t new — some of the cases investigated go back more than a decade — but the program gets a number of women to tell their stories on camera, some for the first time. It’s a damning accumulation. 

Not many of the cases seem to have resulted in consequences for the men accused, for reasons no officials seem able to explain. (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has brought cases against the companies that employed them.) But the program’s team tracks down several of the men. One, asked point-blank if he raped a woman who has accused him of doing so, can’t stammer out a direct answer. Another denies even knowing any of the women who have accused him of assault, even though he was their supervisor. 

The structure of big agriculture provides the perfect environment for abuse. Huge growing or livestock operations are kingdoms unto themselves, secretive ones that no one wants to examine very closely. Many of the women who work in these places are not legal immigrants and are desperate for money. They fear losing their income if they report a sexual crime, and sometimes the law enforcers they would report it to are the same ones whose job it is to deport them. 

The program is a collaborative effort by the correspondent Lowell Bergman, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the graduate school of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. The broadcasting of it is a collaboration as well: it will also be shown on Saturday on the Spanish-language network Univision. That’s a little bit of light, at least, on a problem that has gone largely unpublicized amid the noise of the immigration debate. 

Mr. Bergman asks Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat well known as an advocate for immigrants, what evidence he has to counter industry claims that the allegations are made up or exaggerated. “The personal testimony of those women that I’ve met with,” he says. “The tears in their eyes. The anguish in their face. The humiliation.” 

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