Appeal to Immigrant Resource Center on anniversary of death of WA farm worker / Public News Service


Residents of northwest Washington are holding a vigil at Bellingham City Hall for an immigrant farm worker who died five years ago and are calling for a resource center to help other residents.

Honesto Silva Ibarra died in 2017 while working in triple-digit heat. A state investigation into Ibarra’s death found that the farm where he worked did not meet requirements for regular breaks.

Tara Villalba, member of the Immigration Advisory Council, who is ask the city to fund an immigrant resource center, lives in the community and said it’s important to have a place where people can use their native language and also build community in their new homes.

“Access to resources is so full of barriers, especially for new immigrants, when English is not your first language, when you don’t know where you’re going to have to go to get a driver’s license, how are you going to register to vote,” Villalba pointed out. “People who have lived here a long time, it’s knowledge they take for granted.”

One in 10 residents of Whatcom County was born outside the United States, or about 24,000 people, but only about half are naturalized citizens, according to the Immigrant Resource Center‘s proposal to the city of Bellingham.

Immigration Advisory Council member and farmworker Lelo Juarez sees Ibarra as a victim of climate change, which disproportionately affects farmworkers who work outdoors. He believes a resource center could be a place people come to with concerns about their working conditions.

“If a company is not following the rules to keep our workers safe, they can come and tell us, and we can go and see what we can do,” Juarez explained. “We really need it.”

On June 1, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries set temporary rules in place, providing increased protection for farm workers when temperatures are at or above 89 degrees.

To support the campaign for a resource center, residents of Whatcom County are folding 10,000 origami butterflies. The campaign is titled “Migration Makes Us Stronger”, and Villalba said the butterflies mean migration is natural.

This weekend is also the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Villalba pointed out that the idea for bending butterflies came from descendants of Japanese Americans interned during World War II, who in recent years have been bending cranes for separated immigrant families held at the prison. southern border.

“They said that as a Japanese-American community, they couldn’t allow this to happen again,” Villalba said. “And I thought, as an immigrant, that was super powerful.”

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