This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
*Note: Some names have been changed in order to protect sources with undocumented status.
For the past five years, Juanita*, a resident of the border town of Mexicali, Mexico, has spent the spring and summer seasons in Southern California’s Eastern Coachella Valley, picking grapes, beets, blueberries, and bell peppers, and then heading north for similar work in Northern California come July, once Coachella’s daytime temperatures become unbearable — 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This year, however, the 66-year-old grandmother finds herself unexpectedly idle. At the end of March, she was working only two days out of six. “They cut all of our hours,” she said, wondering just how much longer she could afford to linger here, waiting for work — and pay.
In California and across the country, agricultural businesses have remained open, classified as “essential.” The farmworkers who are still employed continue to work, despite the lack of protective gear, or unemployment benefits if they fall ill. Farmworkers are especially vulnerable given the difficu... Read more