The films “Haiti in a Time of Cholera” and “Made in Bangladesh” honored for their “aggressive journalism”
The documentaries were awarded for their “broad reach and aggressive journalism,” the Peabody announcement said. “’Haiti in a Time of Cholera’ examined the epidemic that has erupted since the 2010 earthquake and underscored the likelihood that U.N. peacekeepers are the source. ‘Made in Bangladesh’ found evidence of prominent American retailers turning a blind eye to the dangerous practices of foreign subcontractors, practices that led to horrible tragedies like the clothing-factory fire in Bangladesh that killed more than 100 people.”
Tomorrow night, Friday, March 14, at 9:30 pm ET, tune-in to the premiere of “Death In Plain Sight”.
In this episode, Fault Lines travels to South Carolina to investigate the epidemic of domestic violence homicide, and the effects of weak gun laws on the safety and lives of women.
Pictured is Zakiya Lawson, she was the victim of a murder-suicide in which the father of her child, Peter Williams, shot her and himself, upset that she had broken up with him.
What’s Fault Lines listening to?
"Aloe Blacc - Wake Me Up".
The official video for this song tells the story of an immigrant family— a father seeking work as a day laborer on a California street corner, a mother traversing treachery territory to reach the U.S. and her husband, and a daughter protesting in support of immigration reform.
We’re reminded of the many stories we’ve heard while producing our “Deported”, “Cross Border Killings”, and “Illegal America" episodes. And, that the "11 million true stories" that inspired this video are being played out in the everyday lives of many.
Fault Lines investigates the system that brings foreign laborers to work on U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.
We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on March 8, 2014, 5:00p ET, and premieres on Al Jazeera English later in March 11, 2014.
Without further ado, the background reading:
“Tribune Investigation: Pipeline to Peril,” Chicago Tribune, October 2005 - January 2006.
Thousands of workers are needed to meet the demands of the unprecedented privatization of military support operations unfolding under the watch of the U.S. Army and KBR, its prime contractor in Iraq.
KBR, in turn, outsources much of the work. Mansour said his take of this action was from $300 to $500 per worker, paid by other brokers and subcontractors in Amman who send the laborers directly to the bases in Iraq[…]
“Documents Reveal Details of Alleged Labor Trafficking by KBR Subcontractor” David Isenberg and Nick Schwellenbach for Pogo Blog, June 14, 2011
In December 2008, South Asian workers, two thousand miles or more from their homes, staged a protest on the outskirts of Baghdad. The reason: Up to 1,000 of them had been confined in a windowless warehouse and other dismal living quarters without money or work for as long as three months[…]
The men came to Iraq lured by the promise of employment by Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor performing work for Houston-based KBR, Inc. under the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract.
Now, a cache of internal corporate and government documents obtained by POGO offer insight into this episode of alleged war zone human trafficking by companies working for the U.S.—and suggest that hardly anyone has been held accountable for what may be violations of U.S. law.
“The Invisible Army, for foreign workers on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell,” Sarah Stillman for The New Yorker, June 6, 2011
"The expansion of private-security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is well known. But armed security personnel account for only about sixteen per cent of the over-all contracting force. The vast majority—more than sixty per cent of the total in Iraq—aren’t hired guns but hired hands. These workers, primarily from South Asia and Africa, often live in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, eat at meagre chow halls, and host dance parties featuring Nepalese romance ballads and Ugandan church songs. A large number are employed by fly-by-night subcontractors who are financed by the American taxpayer but who often operate outside the law.
The wars’ foreign workers are known, in military parlance, as “third-country nationals,” or T.C.N.s. Many of them recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses. Previously unreleased contractor memos, hundreds of interviews, and government documents I obtained during a yearlong investigation confirm many of these claims and reveal other grounds for concern. Widespread mistreatment even led to a series of food riots in Pentagon subcontractor camps, some involving more than a thousand workers.”
“Victims of complacency: The Ongoing Trafficking and Abuse of Third Country Nationals by U.S. Government Contractors,” Yale Law School, ACLU, June 2012
As a result of widely publicized incidents—such as the abduction and murder of twelve Nepali men whom Government contractors trafficked into Iraq in 2004—the U.S. Government came under pressure to eliminate trafficking and labor abuses from the U.S. contracting industry.
Although the Government then adopted a “zero-tolerance” policy against trafficking, reports of abuse continued to surface. In 2007, U.S. Government contractors trafficked a group of Fijian women to Iraq and subjected them to various forms of abuse and exploitation. In 2008, 1,000 South Asian workers staged protests on the outskirts of Baghdad after a Government subcontractor confined them to a windowless warehouse without money or work for as many as three months. Most recently, in December 2011, dozens of Ugandan TCNs held a series of rallies in Baghdad; their employer, a U.S.-based contractor, had left them stranded—with no pay and no return airfare—upon losing its USG contract as a result of the military drawdown.
“Nation in a State: Meals ready, on America’s frontline pressure cooker,”A. Srivathsan for The Hindu, June 6, 2013
The U.S. government categorises people employed from outside the United States or the “local country,” , in this case Afghanistan or Iraq, as Third Country National (TCN). It also states that a TCN is entitled to the same benefits and allowances as the U.S. personal services contractors, which include “danger pay” and “involuntary separate maintenance allowance.” However, the reality appears to be different.
The DynCorp International website still carries announcements calling for applicants for the post of second baker in Afghanistan (last accessed on February 15). While the job description and other information are given, the remuneration details are missing. Men in Odaipatti, probably, will never know what they truly deserve.
“The need to earn is the reason which drives all of us to take big risks,” explains T. Anandaraja
Fault Lines returns to Libya and investigates what NATO’s so-called humanitarian intervention has achieved in the two-and-a-half years after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown.
We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on February 15, 2014, 5:30p ET, and premieres on Al Jazeera English later in February 18, 2014.
Join us as we livetweet this episode Friday from our main Twitter account, @ajfaultlines
Without further ado, the background reading:
“Bomb explodes near foreign ministry in Benghazi,” Al Jazeera America, September 11, 2013
“A powerful blast has caused severe damage to a foreign ministry building in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, witnesses said.
It was not immediately known if Wednesday’s blast resulted in casualties.
The explosion came on the first anniversary of an attack by armed men on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
The U.S. government initially said the assault grew out of anti-Western protests. Later, however, it turned out that an armed group launched the attack on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Benghazi, the cradle of the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed dictator Muammar Gaddafi, has been hit by a wave of deadly attacks in recent months targeting security force officers and members of the judiciary, many of whom served in the previous regime.
Attacks have also targeted diplomats and Western interests.
Much of the violence, including the killing of the U.S. ambassador last year, has been attributed to Islamists.
Documents obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit revealed that the U.S. State Department knew of the security problems in Benghazi, but failed to fix them.”
“Libya demands answers after US seizes Al-Qaeda leader in Tripoli” Al Jazeera America, October 6, 2013
“The Libyan government demanded Sunday that Washington explain the “kidnapping” of an alleged Al-Qaeda suspect in Tripoli, a day after U.S. forces conducted two raids on targets in African countries.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that the White House was pleased with the missions’ outcome adding that the Navy SEAL operation in Libya and Somalia made clear that America “will never stop the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror.”
But anger in Libya, coupled with an apparent failure to capture or kill the intended Al-Shabab target in Somalia, has seemingly dented U.S. claims of a success, and led to questions over Washington’s decision to carry out the raids without the host nation’s knowledge.
Al-Liby’s capture in Tripoli ends a 15-year manhunt for the 49-year-old, who was listed on the FBI’s most wanted list. It also opens the way for criminal proceedings against him to take place in the U.S.”
“Libyan PM freed from captivity,” Al Jazeera America, October 10, 2013
"Libya’s state news agency said Prime Minister Ali Zeidan had been freed after being captured Thursday and briefly detained, reportedly by government-aligned rebel groups. It is not clear if he was released willingly by his captors or if security forces intervened.
The government earlier said the prime minister had been kidnapped from a Tripoli hotel by armed men and taken to an unknown location. But hours later an Interior Ministry spokesman said Zeidan was being held at the ministry’s anti-crime department.
Zeidan returned to his office after he had been seized and held by former rebel militiamen for about six hours.
"The elected government cannot be toppled, unless by the vote of the people," Nuri Ali Abu Sahmain, president of Libya’s General National Congress, the country’s legislative body, said at a news conference Thursday. "We will continue to address such incidents in a legal, lawful manner."
The chaotic situation appears to reflect the weakness of Libya’s government, which is virtually held hostage by rival militias. Some of the groups were angered when the United States snatched an alleged Al-Qaeda member from Tripoli on Saturday, and have accused the government of allowing the raid.”
“Anti-militia protest turns deadly in Libya,” Al Jazeera America, November 15, 2013
"At least 27 people have been killed and 235 wounded after gunmen opened fire Friday on protesters who had called on armed groups to leave Tripoli. The latest violence further challenges Libya’s weak central government.
"The demonstration was peaceful and had been permitted by the Interior Ministry, and then the protesters were fired on when they entered the Gharghur district," where the militia’s headquarters are located, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said in a TV interview Friday.
"The existence of weapons outside the army and police is dangerous," Zeidan added. "All armed militias need to leave Tripoli, without exception."
The third outbreak of street fighting within 10 days underscored Libya’s struggle to contain regional militias that helped overthrow leader Muammar Gaddafi two years ago but kept their guns. Armed disorder has blocked most oil exports for months.
Friday’s bloodshed, the worst in Tripoli for several months, began when militiamen opened fire, first into the air and then into hundreds of protesters who were demanding their eviction from the capital after the militias had repeatedly battled with other armed factions for control of certain neighborhoods.”
“Displaced Libyans still dream of home,” Karlos Zurutuza for Al Jazeera English, November 26, 2013
“Tripoli, Libya - Nostalgia for the past is painfully evident for 11-year-old Abdul Aziz Omar - one of 400 students at a school holding classes in the rubble of a former naval academy in western Tripoli.
"The labs, the fountain, the swings in the playground … I miss everything from my old school, everything," Omar said.
The ugly cluster of buildings that once hosted dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s future admirals at the Janzur Naval Academy are today the closest thing to a home for 300 displaced families from the city of Tawargha. During the 2011 civil war, Gaddafi’s forces used Tawargha as a base for a brutal two-month siege of neighbouring Misrata. The twin cities are about 200 kilometres east of Tripoli.
Libyan rebels eventually broke the siege and sought revenge on the people of Tawargha, whom they saw as responsible for Misrata’s suffering. Tawargha became a ghost town, its inhabitants scattered across the country.”
(VIDEO) “The Explainer: Libya and its oil-rich history,” Reuters, August 23, 2013
“Revenge Crimes Against Tawerghans in Libya,” Human Rights Watch
Fault Lines is back!
Tomorrow, Friday, January 31st, at 9:30p EST, our new Fault Lines episode “The Deported: America’s Immigration Battle” airs on Al Jazeera America.
As undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows to demand a halt to deportations, Fault Lines investigates what happens to families torn apart by a broken immigration system.
We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on February 1, 2014, 5:30p ET, and premieres on Al Jazeera English on February 11, 2014 at 22:30 GMT.
Join us as we livetweet this episode Friday from our main Twitter account, @ajfaultlines
But in the meantime, check out the background reading.
“Deportations creating a generation scarred by parental loss”, Stephanie Woodard for Indian Country Today,” Al Jazeera America, October 24, 2013
"Both Muñoz’s brother and her stepfather were deported within a two-year period — and her situation is far from unique. Approximately 4.5 million American citizens have been born to undocumented parents, and about 660,000 have lost a parent to deportation since 1998. With President Barack Obama presiding over more deportations than any other president — nearly 2 million to date — such separations have left a generation of children with a heavy emotional burden.
Many, like Muñoz, are the only citizens in their families. About 5,100 citizens are in foster care after the deportation of a parent; others are undocumented themselves and can’t visit their parents. Research shows that deportations can lead to a host of trauma-related reactions in children, including generalized anxiety, recurrent nightmares, depression, panic attacks and flashbacks. This doesn’t include other stressors, such as the financial strain of losing a breadwinner, a dearth of mental health services and the anxiety that already pervades many immigrant communities.”
“Obama calls on House GOP to pass immigration reform,” Alfonso Serrano for Al Jazeera America, November 25, 2013
“Despite Obama’s concession to Republicans on Monday, the president said a House immigration deal must include certain elements, including a path to legal status and eventually citizenship.
“If they want to chop that thing up in five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like,” Obama said. “Don’t let the minority of folks block something the country desperately needs. If we don’t tackle this now, then we’re undercutting our future.”
In a dramatic pause, Obama’s speech was interrupted by hecklers who implored him to stop deportations. “Stop deportations — yes we can,” a small group of protesters shouted. The president stopped Secret Service agents from removing the protesters.
“I respect the passion of these young people” Obama said. “But we’re a nation of laws. That’s our tradition.”
The Obama administration announced last week that it would stop deporting family members of U.S. military personnel. The order gives the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials the power to “parole in place” immigrant spouses, children and parents of current U.S. service members, reservists and veterans. Those immigrants may apply to live legally in the United States.
Nonetheless, immigration advocates have assailed Obama’s deportation policy, which is intended to deport only the most serious criminals. They say an overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants are deported for nonviolent offenses like minor traffic violations. Immigration proponents also point out that Obama has presided over more than 2 million deportations — more than any other president.”
“Immigration activists shut down Congress,” The Stream Team for Al Jazeera America, December 13, 2013
“More than 1,000 pro-immigration reform activists gathered outside of Congressional offices on Thursday, effectively shutting down business in over 100 House Republican offices.
School, church and union groups converged on Washington DC from as far away as North Carolina and New York. Recent polling shows that 63% of Americans support a comprehensive immigration reform, or a path to citizenship for those currently living in the United States illegally. A minority think that immigrants are a “threat to traditional American values.”
“The Year in Immigration: High hopes, but no movement on reform”, Haya El Nasser, for Al Jazeera America, December 26, 2013
“For immigration reform, 2013 will go down as the year that wasn’t.
Advocates for a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system that would create a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented were full of hope and confidence when the year began.
President Obama had just been reelected to a second term, partly thanks to support from Latinos, Asians and other immigrants. There was hope Republicans would see value in tackling an issue foremost on the minds of this key segment of the electorate and, as polls are showing, something almost two-thirds of all Americans support.
Confidence was boosted in June — the high point for reform supporters — when the Senate passed a comprehensive plan, 68–32.
It was not the package they had hoped for — it included a 13-year wait for citizenship, for example. And border communities were not happy with the plan to double the number of border patrol agents. But it included provisions they had fought for — such as increased levels of labor permits for high- and low-skilled workers, and the DREAM Act, which would give undocumented youths who immigrated as children with their families to the U.S. a way to apply for permanent residence in five years, regardless of their current age.
The momentum was there. But then came the escalation of the conflict in Syria, budget battles, a shutdown of the federal government because of a budget standstill and, to top it all off, the problem-plagued health care reform rollout to provide health insurance to every American.
All of these issues dominated the debate in the House of Representatives at the expense of immigration reform. The Republican-controlled House does not support the Senate plan and was not eager to put the issue on the front burner.”
“Immigration police pilot ‘stop and frisk’-style raids in New Orleans,” Paul Abowd for Al Jazeera America, January 29, 2014.
“Federal agents have quietly launched a program aimed at deporting undocumented immigrants who have violent criminal records.
The Criminal Alien Removal Initiative, or CARI, has sparked immigration raids at grocery stores, Bible study groups and parks where immigration agents handcuff and fingerprint suspects on the spot.
The raids have created “a terrifying effect,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, an organizer with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, which authored a December report exposing the program. “We haven’t seen raids with this magnitude, this intensity and this technology in other parts of the country…
CARI is a nationwide effort that began in May 2012 when ICE boosted the number of immigration “fugitive operations teams” in field offices like New Orleans by 25 percent.
ICE officials told Al Jazeera in an email that CARI “focuses ICE’s limited enforcement resources on identifying, arresting and removing at-large criminal aliens who pose a risk to community safety.
But agents are also arresting people like San Martin for violating prior deportation orders — even if those people have U.S. citizen children and no violent criminal record.”
“Interview with Dan DeVivo & Valeria Fernández,Directors of “Two Americans,” Al Jazeera America Presents, October 21, 2013
“Photos: Inside an immigration prison”, Al Jazeera America, December 3, 2013
Photo by Josh Rushing.
We return with new weekly Fault Lines episodes next Friday, January 31st on Al Jazeera America (the following week on Al Jazeera English).
This photo of Jose was taken in the San Juan Bosco Shelter in Nogales, Mexico. Josh was back in the country of his birth for the first time in 31 years. He had been deported hours later and hadn’t yet told his family. Two days before this in Phoenix, Arizona, he had been riding his bicycle when a sheriff asked to see his papers.
We will be livetweeting the new episode as usual from @ajfaultlines next Friday at 9:30p ET/6:30p PT.
Tonight, Friday, November 1st, at 10:30p EST, our new Fault Lines episode “Collect It All: America’s Surveillance State” airs on Al Jazeera America.
What does it mean to live in a surveillance state? In this episode, Fault Lines investigates the fallout over the NSA’s mass data collection programs in the U.S. and abroad.
We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on November 2, 2013, 7p ET, and premieres on Al Jazeera English on November 6, 2013.
Join us as we livetweet this episode Friday from our main Twitter account, @ajfaultlines along with the episode’s correspondent, @JoshRushing and producers @LailaAlarian, and @NafeesaSyeed.
Get caught up and tune in!
“NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily,” Glenn Greenwald for The Guardian, June, 5, 2013
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing…
The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”…
The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items.
“U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program,” Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, June 6, 2013
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
London’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday that GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA.
“Everything you need to know about PRISM: A cheat sheet for the NSA’s unprecedented surveillance programs,” Verge Staff, July 17, 2013
PRISM is a tool used by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect private electronic data belonging to users of major internet services like Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and others. It’s the latest evolution of the US government’s post-9/11 electronic surveillance efforts, which began under President Bush with the Patriot Act, and expanded to include the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) enacted in 2006 and 2007.
There’s a lot we still don’t know about how PRISM works, but the basic idea is that it allows the NSA to request data on specific people from major technology companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and others. The US government insists that it is only allowed to collect data when given permission by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“Inside the spy unit that NYPD says doesn’t exist,” Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, August 31, 2011
From an office on the Brooklyn waterfront in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, New York Police Department officials and a veteran CIA officer built an intelligence-gathering program with an ambitious goal: to map the region’s ethnic communities and dispatch teams of undercover officers to keep tabs on where Muslims shopped, ate and prayed.
The program was known as the Demographics Unit and, though the NYPD denies its existence, the squad maintained a long list of “ancestries of interest” and received daily reports on life in Muslim neighborhoods, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
The documents offer a rare glimpse into an intelligence program shaped and steered by a CIA officer. It was an unusual partnership, one that occasionally blurred the line between domestic and foreign spying. The CIA is prohibited from gathering intelligence inside the U.S.
“NYPD targets mosques using ‘terrorism enterprise investigations’,” Al Jazeera America, August 28, 2013
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. A TEI, as it is known, is a police tool intended to help investigate suspected terrorist cells.
Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance.
Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise.
"NSA chief defends spy program in face of protest from allies," October 29, 2013
The head of the National Security Agency defended the intelligence agency as acting within legal boundaries Tuesday, as he sought to defuse growing controversies over the U.S. spying on its European allies and the collection of U.S. phone and email records.
General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, offered an impassioned defense of the intelligence agency, telling the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee that it is focused on preventing attacks on Americans and its allies and operates under strict oversight.
"It is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked," Alexander said…
Some of the data referenced in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was collected not just by the NSA itself but was also “provided to NSA by foreign partners,” he said. “This is not information that we collected on European citizens. It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations.”
“Timeline of Edward Snowden’s revelations,”Joshua Eaton & Ben Piven for Al Jazeera America, 2013
“FAQ: What You Need to Know About the NSA’s Surveillance Program,” Jonathan Stray for ProPublica, August 5, 2013
Tomorrow night, Friday, October 25th, at 9:30p EST, our new Fault Lines episode “Children at Work” airs on Al Jazeera America.
In this episode, Fault Lines’ Wab Kinew investigates how children are hired by US agriculture to help put food on America’s tables.
We will have more from the episode in the coming week as it repeats on Al Jazeera America on October 26, 2013, 7p ET, and premieres on Al Jazeera English on October 31, 2013.
Join us as we livetweet this episode Sunday from our main Twitter account, @ajfaultlines along with the episode’s correspondent, @WabKinew.
Get caught up and tune in!
“Fields of Peril,” Human Rights Watch, May 2010
Hundreds of thousands of children under age 18 are working in agriculture in the United States. But under a double standard in US federal law, children can toil in the fields at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and under far more hazardous conditions than all other working children. For too many of these children, farmwork means an early end to childhood, long hours at exploitative wages, and risk to their health and sometimes their lives. Although their families’ financial need helps push children into the fields—poverty among farmworkers is more than double that of all wage and salary employees—the long hours and demands of farmwork result in high drop-out rates from school. Without a diploma, child workers are left with few options besides a lifetime of farmwork and the poverty that accompanies it.
“For migrant students, a cycle of dwindling opportunities,” Kevin Sieff for the Washington Post, November 6, 2010
Relentless mobility challenges the schools charged with educating the nation’s 475,000 migrant students. Many never start school, and in Virginia one-third fail to graduate on time. Migrant students trail others in performance on the state’s reading and math tests. That poses a major challenge for schools because federal law has set a goal for all students to pass those tests by 2014.
The stakes are even higher for the students themselves. “If these kids don’t settle in one place by high school, graduation is basically an impossibility,” said Katy Pitcock, who worked for Winchester’s migrant education program for 25 years, until 2004.
"Child Labor Farm Rules Scrapped By White House Under Political Pressure,” Dave Jamieson for Huffington Post, April 27, 2012
Facing political pressure from Republicans and farming groups, the White House has decided to scrap rules proposed last year that would have prevented minors from performing certain agricultural work deemed too dangerous for children.
The Labor Department announced the decision late Thursday, saying it was withdrawing the rules due to concern from the public over how they could affect family farms. “The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations,” the department said in a statement.
“Child farm labor in Oregon and the U.S.: big dangers, little change,” Anthony Schick for The Oregonian, September 29, 2012
Lax enforcement of underage labor laws and inadequate safety rules for teens are threatening the long-term health of thousands of children who work on American farms, advocates say.
Efforts to pay for closer monitoring have failed, and farm lobbyists have blocked tighter restrictions on the work children can do. The industry’s most recent victory came in April, when the Obama administration killed a U.S. Labor Department plan that would have rewritten child farm rules for the first time since 1974.
The safety of children in the fields is a pressing issue in Oregon, where agriculture is an essential part of the economy.
The true extent of child labor in the state is hidden because official data do not include underage workers like Elvin. But visits to fields and interviews with farmworkers indicate it is far more widespread than statistics show.
Nearly everyone involved has an incentive to allow underage labor.
Farmers need crops picked, farmworkers need money children bring home and advocates for workers risk alienating whole families if they broach the subject. The tenuous residency status of many Mexican-born workers also plays a role.
“Obama, strengthen rules on child farm labor,” Cristina Traina for CNN, January 7, 2013
The numbers are hard to estimate, but between direct hiring, hiring through labor contractors, and off-the-books work beside parents or for cash, perhaps 400,000 children, some as young as 6, weed and harvest for commercial farms. A Human Rights Watch 2010 study shows that children laboring for hire on farms routinely work more than 10 hours per day.
As if this were not bad enough, few labor safety regulations apply. Children 14 and older can work long hours at all but the most dangerous farm jobs without their parents’ consent, if they do not miss school. Children 12 and older can too, as long as their parents agree. Unlike teen retail and service workers, agricultural laborers 16 and older are permitted to operate hazardous machinery and to work even during school hours.
In addition, Human Rights Watch reports that child farm laborers are exposed to dangerous pesticides; have inadequate access to water and bathrooms; fall ill from heat stroke; suffer sexual harassment; experience repetitive-motion injuries; rarely receive protective equipment like gloves and boots; and usually earn less than the minimum wage. Sometimes they earn nothing.