JPAC Benefit Screening of Harvest

Gladys Munoz and Father Wayne DziekanThe Traverse City Ticker ran a nice feature on the Justice and Peace Advocacy Center before our May 12 benefit screening of Harvest at the State Theater. Harvest examines the plight of migrant child farmworkers by focusing on three youths as they toil around the country picking crops and there’s a trailer below:

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Michigan employs nearly 50,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers statewide. Leelanau County is one of five counties that hosts between 2,000 and 5,000 workers. Grand Traverse has between 1,000 and 2,000.

“When these people face emergency immigration needs or a medical emergency, they don’t know who to turn to,” says Dziekan. “But Gladys quickly earns their trust through her years of work with medical and cultural interpretation. They trust her, so they trust me, and I’m a priest so that helps sometimes.”

Many of the migrants work in southern states during the winter months and come north to pick cherries or apples during summer and fall. They leave a complex paper trail of documents across state lines. JPAC’s work ranges from helping a Spanish-speaking farmworker navigate paying their household bills, to finding them a ride to Detroit for an immigration hearing.

According to Munoz, the typical migrant worker earns between $10,000 and $15,000 per year and, because they move frequently, they’re not in one place long enough to receive benefits.

“If they suddenly need to see a doctor, it needs to happen now, because they might not be here in three weeks,” says Munoz. “Our model at JPAC is to meet their emergency, social and integration needs.”

JPAC leaders believe their work has become more relevant in recent years as immigration laws have become tighter and more complex.

“The cases I end up working on now are more heavy duty than they were a few years ago,” says Dziekan. “We used to have cases that we could resolve reasonably quickly. For example a person would be detained or deported quickly. But now the laws are so complex and dysfunctional.” They sometimes get stuck in a legal limbo for months, he says.

Read on for more at the Ticker.