Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.
The tillage of the poor yields abundant food, but possessions are swept away for lack of justice.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
“Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Four farmworkers from Central America were ecstatic to be offered the chance to work in the United States legally. They handed over their passports and a down payment for the immigration fees, nearly $5,000 altogether. It was all the money they had. When they arrived in the U.S., they were told they owed another $7,000. The men were upset, but they were far from home, with no English skills and fearful of losing their jobs. They agreed to pay in installments.
The men worked long, physically demanding hours for a minimal wage. The supervisor would hit them to make them work faster and ignored their pleas for medical attention. If they were fed, it was once a day. They were quartered in the same house under inhumane living conditions. There were no real beds, no heating or air conditioning, and the only exit was padlocked to keep them from running away during the night. The supervisor told them they could not leave until their debt was settled. He also told them that if they escaped back to Central America, he would burn down their houses to make them pay.
Finally, the workers had had enough. They managed to locate the phone number for a social worker who specializes in trafficking cases. They called and told her everything. She asked for their address and picked them up, taking them to a safe location and putting them in contact with an immigration attorney at one of CLINIC’s affiliates in the southeast. All the men attended the trial against their former supervisor and are now awaiting approval for T non-immigrant status, a visa specifically for victims of trafficking. The men are looking forward to being reunited with their families.
- As a nation, we reap bountifully from the hard work of migrant farmers, yet we are reluctant to acknowledge their contributions. Spiritually, what can we expect to reap as a result? How can we better show our appreciation for their efforts?
- While labor trafficking is a major issue in the agricultural industry, farm work is one of the few consistent employment options for undocumented immigrants. They risk the same treatment as those who are trafficked, but have fewer legal options. Why would someone choose to work so hard for such little pay? What situation would lead you to do the same?
God, may the men and women who toil in the fields find their efforts rewarded through welcoming communities and legal protections that are long overdue. May I be consistent in my dedication to create those communities and find the courage to defend them. Amen.
Call to Action
Use the directory on CLINIC’s website to locate your nearest CLINIC affiliate and ask them to give a presentation to your parish about the immigration system. Afterwards, partner with them to host a Know Your Rights/screening event at your parish. Have parishioners organize, set up, and volunteer at the event.
Just select your state and type in your city to find the CLINIC affiliate nearest to you.
Learn more about the Catholic perspective on farmworker issues by reading USCCB’s official publication on the issue.