Labor Day From The Eyes of Im[migrant] Children

By Victoria Cepeda

Another Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  While the majority of us spent time with friends and families either at a BBQ, pool party, shopping for bargains, or going to the beach many in the U.S. continued their work shifts, without a choice, service & hospitality industry aside. There is no more truth to this fact than on the farm fields across the U.S.

(AP Photo/ Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, Heather Anderson)

According to the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), there are 400,000 to 500,000 child farmworkers in the United States the majority of whom are U.S. citizens. But since many children do not get paid themselves—their salary is often rolled into their parents’ paycheck—tracking them can be difficult.

Sobering facts that leave us wondering about the effectiveness of our Child Labor laws as these kids need to help their parents “put food on the table”. All in all these collective of families are better off  than thousands of their fellow farm workers that are orphans and hail from all walks of lives and countries. Their poignant reality is devastating and demoralizing, at best.

Fortunately, there is the Immigrant Child Advocacy Project, a human service and policy advocacy program dedicated to advocating for the best interest – safety and well-being – of immigrant and refugee children who are alone in the United States.  The agency tells us that in “2008, more than 8,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were taken into custody by U.S. immigration authorities. They were caught at the borders and at the airports, and then sent to shelters throughout the country where their stay can range from a month to as long as a year.” Today the number of children affected, altogether, is well in the hundred of thousands.

But not all is lost. We have definitely come a long way since 1938 when child labor was outlawed under the Fair Labor Standards Act but much we still have some ground to cover.  Our politicians, community activists and school districts should work together to help eradicate child labor and those that take part of such hiring practices.

As I recall my first job as a cashier at a Shop-Rite, at the age of sixteen, I remember how elating it felt to receive a pay check. Unfortunately, for the children featured in our article, there is little elation or celebration come pay day. Too many fears and uncertainties plague their existance. Their families offering little or no escape in a vicious cycle that is bound to be repeated.

Summer Homework: Plow the Field

The Immigrant Child Advocacy Project

The Blood and Sweat Behind Labor Day

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