VT Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project Announces ‘Vermont’s Silenced Voices Project’ as Immigrant Rights Groups Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The Vermont's Silent Voices Project seeks to amplify the silenced voices of migrant farmworkers in Vermont in order to raise awareness about the experiences, needs, and hopes of some of the approximately 2,000 migrant farmworkers who have come to the aid of Vermont dairy farms in crisis. We hope to engage Vermonters in a much needed dialogue to work for more socially and economically just communities for ALL of those living and working in VT. In this first interview one of Vermont’s Silenced Voices shares the interdependencies between VT dairy farmers and migrant farmworkers. In the end, he appeals to the U.S. government to support both farmworkers and farmers. For more of Vermont's Silenced Voices Project go to: http://vtmigrantfarmworkersolidarity.org/taxonomy/term/1.

Last week national immigrant rights organizations met with President Obama to push him to keep his delayed promise of comprehensive immigration reform and others blasted his administration for ‘escalating deportations and detentions’. On Sunday, March 21, thousands of people will converge on Washington to raise their voices for the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

Here in Vermont, our response is to raise local awareness by sharing migrant farmworkers' experiences in their own words. In addition to the Vermont's Silenced Voices Project we are gearing up to announce our first viewing of a documentary film that shares the story of Vermont Migrant Farmworker José Obeth Santis Cruz who was killed in a tragic farming accident on December 22, 2009. (http://www.vtmigrantfarmworkersolidarity.org/node/31). In this film José Obeth's family, friends and community in Chiapas, Mexico reflect on why he, and so many others, are migrating from their farming communities in Chiapas and risking their lives crossing the border to get to VT.

More About the Vermont’s Silenced Voices Project

In the fall of 2009 Brendan O’Neill and Gustavo Terán conducted a series of audio interviews with 12 Vermont migrant farmworkers who are working or have worked in Bennington, Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, Lamoille and Orleans counties. Once an interview was completed we played the interviews to migrant farmworkers at different farms to listen to and reflect on. Since workers seldom gather to share their experiences and reflect together as a community due to their extreme isolation and lack of freedom in Vermont this project helped generate a dialogue between workers and across farms.

While workers share that they value their work here in VT, all 12 also share stories of hardships and of a profound sense of isolation and lack of freedom. This manifests in the simple taken for granted freedoms like the ability to gather together; walk across the street; or go to the market--- without fear of deportation. Indeed, the interviews demonstrate that Vermont economy, people, and landscapes are together dependent on an invisible community without basic rights.

In February, VTMFSP volunteer Jessica Noyes organized the next phase of the project, which expanded our participants and dialogue to include high school and college students. Jessica organized and shared the interviews with Vermont high school Spanish classes and college student groups who listened and then transcribed and translated the interviews. The VTMFSP is very grateful to all those who’ve made this project possible!

We will be releasing the interviews as they come back from high schools and colleges over the coming weeks to add local silenced voices to the national immigration debates.

These first interviews we share were made possible by the hard work of:

-Olga Saldarriaga’s class at Enosburgh High School with a special thanks to Enosburgh High’s Gabino Hernandez for his outstanding independent work on this project.

-Cardamone-Newstub’s Spanish class at Vermont Commons

-Angela King, Elizabeth Wescott (UVM Intern) and the Spanish V class from Milton High School

-The volunteers with the student group JUNTOS at Middlebury College

-Andy Crawford who trained us in the use of the audio editing program Audacity.

- Joe Golden of Triangulus who helped organize these interviews on our website.

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