Common Questions about Migrant/Farmworkers
- What is the difference between a "migrant" and a "seasonal" farmworker?
Although some funding sources and programs have very specific definitions, in general a migrant worker will relocate his/her place of residence during the course of a growing season in order to follow the crops. A seasonal worker will remain in the same housing, though he/she may travel to different employers over a wide geographical area and work different crops during a season.
- Why is it important to understand the difference between migrant and seasonal farmworkers?
Although they may share similar cultures, they are very different populations in terms of providing services, including housing for example. Nonprofits who try and design housing strategies for migrant farmworkers are typically unable to do so for three reasons: communities do not want the housing, it's very difficult to find funds to support the housing, and it's very difficult to cover overhead costs once the workers move on.
- What is a "single male unaccompanied worker"?
The face of the farmworker changes from time to time as immigration laws change. Although farmwork is an honorable profession, the annual income is around $7,000 for a single worker and about $10,000 for a family. These numbers encourage workers to leave the fields and move into other vocations. In Florida, many workers remain in the agricultural field, but will find year-round, full-time employment in nurseries. Many others will move into landscaping, construction labor, auto mechanics, etc. To fill the void left when workers move on, other immigrants move in. Frequently, the first to come is the male head of the household. Currently, at least 50% of the farmworkers in many parts of Florida are here alone. Many of these, though classified as "single", are married men temporarily removed from their families.
- What are the ethnicities of the farmworkers in Florida?
A common misconception is that all farmworkers are Hispanic, although the majority of Florida's farmworkers are originally from countries in South and Central America, and the majority of these are from Mexico. A significant percentage, however, do not speak Spanish-rather, they speak one of several Indian dialects. There are sizable subpopulations of other ethnicities as well. In some parts of Florida, upwards of 35% of farmworkers are Haitian/Caribbean Islander, and many African Americans work the fields, as well.
- Why is Florida called a "sending state" in regard to migrant farmworkers?
Florida, along with Texas and California, are regarded as the three sending states for migrants because most migrants will claim one of these three states as their home. This is generally where the migrant streams begin and where the farmworkers will return once the season has ended, to await the start of the next season. They are also the areas with the longest growing seasons. In many cases, migrants will travel alone to follow the crops, and their families will stay in the "sending state", or home state, establishing a year-round residence. This is common in families with school age children; though there are many families who migrate together.
- Where do the migrant farmerworkers go when they leave Florida?
There are three generally accepted "migrant streams", one starting from each of the "sending states": Florida, Texas and California. The streams are fluid as they adjust to regional agricultural shifts. See map
- What is "licensed migrant farmworker housing" in Florida?
Florida's Department of Health has a program covering two types of migrant housing: permitted migrant labor camps and permitted migrant residential housing. The program has its own building codes and lacks many of the amenities commonly associated with housing, primarily because its chief concerns are decreasing the risks of spreading communicable diseases and preventing injury. All the units are open only temporarily and are owned by farmers (many of these are provided rent-free as a condition of employment) and for-profit persons and entities. The units are inspected twice quarterly by County Health Inspectors while the facilities are open.
- Does HUD have any funds specifically targeted to benefit farmworkers?
The short answer is no. The longer (and far more accurate) answer is that HUD has a great many funds that can be and have been used within farmworker communities. HUD funds can help develop single family or multi-family housing, address fair housing concerns, initiate job training programs, fund computer learning centers, provide homeless assistance, and much more. See Federal funding sources.
- Who can I call in my area to help me?
If you have questions about HUD services, general questions about farmworkers in Florida, or need help finding programs assisting farmworkers contact your state farmworker specialist.