According to a 2005 survey, 53% of farmworkers are undocumented (without legal authorization), 25% are United States citizens, and 21% are legal permanent residents.
2001 ITF Intern, NC Justice Center, Raleigh, NC
Update from October 2007
My SAF internship was a really important moment in my life because (1) I met SO many great people (farmworkers, interns, and coordinators) and (2) it gave me an idea of what activism could look like off-campus. It made me aware of the many organizations and people working across the state on projects that I hadn't imagined existed – the North Carolina Center for Justice and Community Development, the churches and community health clinics, the priests and preachers and education workers.
Without knowing it, I think I had a relatively empty map of North Carolina in my head before this internship, and by the end of the summer it was crowded with people and places.
I started my honors thesis in UNC anthropology on farmworkers and legal justice with my SAF contacts from the summer and graduated with honors from UNC. At that point, I wanted to conduct more research on migrant farmwork in North Carolina and California and eventually teach at the university level, so after I was accepted at the University of California at Berkeley, I left for California. Over the next five years, I got a Masters in Latin American Studies and then pursued a PhD in Geography for three years. In 2003 I collaborated on a photo documentary of the US-Mexico border from Texas to California, highlighting the border militarization process and local responses to new border walls and surveillance.
Berkeley was an incredible experience, and I found the type of Geography that is done in the Berkeley program to be extremely progressive, human-oriented and activist, especially with respect to labor rights and economic issues. I also got a summer internship working for the State Employees' International Union (SEIU) in Oakland, CA on labor and health care issues, which was a great experience. But after passing my oral exams, I decided to withdraw from the program. Unfortunately, the funding for doctoral students had been severely reduced during governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget cuts, and the prospects for finding a good job in my field (and being able to choose the area where I was to live) were not looking good.
Honestly, I was also burned out on academia after 3 years of undergrad and 5 years of grad school. While Marxism and economic geography can really help you consider problems from a different perspective and do amazing research, I realized that the relatively solitary lifestyle of a PhD student and the isolation of the university graduate program was not for me -- at least not at this point in my life. I was tired of taking out loans and writing papers, and wished that I had taken a break from school earlier. So I moved back to North Carolina, my native state, got a retail job at A Southern Season, and started playing lots of music. I play fiddle in two bands now, Rootzie and the Marla Vickers Band, and it is time-consuming but definitely fulfilling. I also love being around my family again -- I live with my brother and his family in Durham. In the future, I would like to get involved again with organizations around here that are working for labor and immigration rights.
2001 ITF Intern, Rockingham County Migrant Health, Reidsville, NC
Update from May 2007
I graduated in 2002 from Elon University with a BA in History Education and Spanish. I went to Nicaragua for the Peace Corps from 2002-2004... definitely a little inspiration from SAF helped me as I worked as an Environmental Education Teacher. I returned via land from Nicaragua and visited my SAF roommate Enedelia Rios in Mexico.. in fact, she took me across into Texas.
I'm in my second year of teaching at RJ Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC and I teach World History and Spanish. I'm definitely still advocating for the underserved because I educate young people about the things in this society that are true and false. I've also volunteered as a medical translator at El Centro La Comunidad here in Winston-Salem.