Visit to the North Country, Day 2

Visit to the North Country, Day 2

Post written by Alyssa Kryzelle Reyes. Colgate Class of 2022.

Our class took a two-day trip to Canton, NY in order to examine the issues that originate from the North Country. For this, we were able to hear the perspectives of immigrant advocates whose work and lives are deeply affected by the undocumented immigrant population. In preparation for this trip, we read Milked, a report conducted on 53 dairy farms surveying the experiences of immigrant dairy farm workers. This report provides a glimpse into the fast-paced and demanding industry that has fostered injustices against vulnerable people. The main advocates we heard from bridges the gaps between the farms and the people to the larger communities.

Relani Prudhomme, a legal assistant, wears different hats in terms of her work as an advocate and as a consultant. As an immigrant advocate, she has worked closely with undocumented farmworkers who are facing issues ranging from their health to their legal rights. One of the key issues she has identified is the lack of awareness regarding worker’s rights. Undocumented immigrants are entitled to similar employment rights and protections as legal citizens. However, most are unaware or hesitant to take action out of fear for their employers or deportation. Therefore, many undocumented workers are left with workplace injuries, withheld paychecks, and other workplace injustices with little to no recourse. 

Laura Barnnet, the director of the North Country Migrant Education Program, works with many migrant youths and their experiences in dealing win a new education system. More often, there is an increased number of undocumented immigrants bringing children in hopes of securing a better future for them. Many migrant families, particularly those who are facing language barriers are not able to seek out the help that they need and cannot advocate for their children. Barnnet’s work hopes to circumvent that by giving children and migrant youth the support and resources they need. However, Barnett’s work doesn’t stop with just education. Schools provide the necessary resources— counseling, school lunches, English learning classes, and other programs centered around helping migrant youth achieve their short- and long-term goals. One of the main issues she has identified is how to ensure that these youth are equipped with the necessary tools and skills that will help them once they are out of the program. 

Martha Chew Sanchez, a professor in SLU Global Studies, is deeply entrenched in the academic research of immigration from the Southern Border. To understand the immigrant experience, she has analyzed the use of memory and identity expressed through song or music. Her most recent research deals with corridos, a form of musical ballad that relays a story or memory. Corridos are integral to the Mexican culture, particularly those who have immigrated to the United States and are surrounded by a different culture. Immigrants carry their identities, their cultures, and their homes with them. The common themes that emerge from corridos ranges from the need to be understood and respected in a foreign land or the painful detachment from their culture.

These issues are not just localized within Canton, NY or the North Country. These issues are universally faced by a lot of undocumented immigrants. The lack of resources or networks, the fear of deportation, the need to assimilate to fit in and many other issues encompass the migrant experience. The work that Prudhomme, Barnnet, and Chew Sanchez focus on the welfare of the migrants to aid and alleviate their worries and their lives in a new and unfamiliar territory. 

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