Omar Alejandro Ibarra
My name is Omar Alejandro Ibarra and I am a proud Chicano. I am a first-generation student and son of Mexican immigrants. I was born in Kansas, but I come from the small town of Guymon located in the panhandle of Oklahoma.
I come from a town that is mostly Latinx in a very conservative state. A town of immigrants. Just this year the BBC published an article on Guymon called “How Mexicans saved a dying US town.” At first, I was only proud of my town and my people getting the recognition they deserved. It wasn’t until later that I realized this headline was also deceiving. Mexicans and immigrants did save this town, but they didn’t do it for headlines or glory. They came to this town and worked in the Seaboard meat processing plant because they had to. They had to make a living for their families and loved ones. This same need, however, left them exposed to unsafe and unsanitary working conditions.
My family is made up of farmworkers. Most of them on this side of the border work in meat processing plants in Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina. My mom has been working in a meat processing plant for almost 25 years, and my stepdad recently retired after over 20 years there. I can tell the plant has left a strain on their bodies that will never leave.
My parents and other immigrant parents are the hardest working people I have ever known, yet they are often treated like they don’t exist. Immigrant farmworkers are the backbone of the food supply chain for the U.S., but only receive vilification as a reward. Sure, there is a paycheck, but it is often too little for the immense work they put into their jobs. COVID-19 has further exacerbated and exposed disparities that have long existed among immigrant farmworkers, especially those who are undocumented.
I am excited to work with SAF and the leaders who have done the hands-on work with farmworking families to learn how to fight back for our people. I am ready to learn more about the real-life policy affecting this population and how to advocate for long-lasting change.