Historical and Contemporary Factors Contributing to the Plight of Migrant Farmworkers in the United States

Safina Koreishi, Martin Thomas Donohoe


Migrant farmworkers provide an essential service
and perform jobs that many Americans are unwilling
to do. Immigration practices and policies dictate the
extent to which undocumented migrant farmworkers
have access to governmental health and social
services, and are ever-changing based on the
political climate. This paper reviews historical and
contemporary United States government policies
relevant to migrant farmworkers. It refutes some of
the common myths regarding documented and
undocumented immigrants and migrant
farmworkers, such as "U.S. public health insurance
programs are overburdened with immigrants,"
"undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of
the American system by 'free riding' and are a 'drain
on the economy,'" and "undocumented immigrants
take American jobs."
Even though their jobs involve significant
occupational hazards, undocumented migrant
farmworkers are ineligible for government services,
and employers generally do not provide these
workers with health insurance. Migrant farmworkers
also face food insecurity, poor housing conditions,
impaired access to education for their children, and
even human rights violations. These conditions, as
well as the nature of their work, affect the health of
undocumented migrant farmworkers and their
children. This paper analyzes these inequities and
calls for a more just and equitable system that treats
migrant farmworkers fairly and provides them and
their families with social services and health care.


immigrants, migrant farm workers, human rights, health policy, social justice

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Department of Family and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center
Bronx, New York, 10461

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