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‘This is our moment’ to pass legalization, farmworkers and advocates say following Senate hearing

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Padilla said during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday that as many as 75% of farmworkers in California lack legal status. Laborers who were already facing the danger of deportation then also had to face danger to their very lives, as the novel coronavirus pandemic began to sweep across the nation last year. Padilla said that these workers then faced the brunt of human costs.

“Nearly 600,000 farmworkers have contracted COVID-19 and the food and agriculture workers in California I know have experienced the highest ‘excess mortality’ during the pandemic, with a 39% increase compared to previous years. For Latinos specifically, the mortality increase reached 59%,” he said. Farmworkers have since had to endure extreme temperatures while working. While articles have mentioned damaged crops, some have neglected to mention the people harvesting those crops. “At no point do we stop working,” Texas farmworker Alejandra said last month.

Present at Wednesday’s hearing were a number of farmworkers (United Farm Workers noted they and their family members had collectively hundreds of years in agriculture), along with UFW President Emeritus Arturo Rodriguez.

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Rodriguez testified during the hearing that farmworkers throughout the pandemic “continued working, they showed up every day, they made sure our crops production continued here within this nation, dairy farms, working there and so forth. And they’ll continue to do so, despite the fact that they did all this at great risk.” Claudia Duran, a farmworker in Michigan and UFW member, said in a statement released following the hearing Wednesday that “[b]eing a farm worker isn’t easy.”

“I have faced many challenges, including dehydration, drastic weather conditions, limited access to food security, and insufficient PPE during the pandemic,” Duran said. “Throughout the pandemic, I continued to work. I didn’t have the luxury to quarantine at home, my four children depend on me. Through it all, I am constantly thinking of my status and returning home safely after work to my children.”

She and other farmworkers urged legislators to pass a pathway to citizenship. “I’ve worked in the fields alongside my mother since I was five,” said Anahi Santiago, a farmworker from Georgia. “My mother’s status has caged us with fear—I want her and others to live free of that fear.”

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The hearing was about the need to pass citizenship for essential farmworkers, but Republicans sought to derail and distract by raising the unrelated topic of the southern border (of course). I won’t give air to their talking points other than to say that their claim that they can’t act on legalization because of the border is a years-old Republican talking point. The fact is that Republicans will sooner admit that the previous president lost the 2020 election before they say the border is secure under a Democratic administration.

Actually, that does bring up one moment from the hearing that I will mention, from an interaction between Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Ted Cruz. Roll Call reports: After Cruz described the border last year under former President Donald Trump as ‘the most secure it’d been in 45 years,’ Vilsack hit back: ‘If that’s the case, then why didn’t you all pass the Modernization Act last year after it passed the House?’” Good question indeed.

While the U.S. House has passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the upcoming infrastructure and economic development bill is right now the best chance in years to pass permanent relief for undocumented farmworkers, along with young undocumented immigrants and temporary status holders. “A pathway to citizenship has been long overdue; I believe that this is the year that the Senate acts and provides this pathway,” Santiago continued. This must be the year. Right now is the time, and the need to act is all the more urgent after a federal judge’s recent ruling against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

“We have a House of Representatives that has prioritized farm worker legalization by passing a bill in the first 100 days of this Congress,” Rodriquez said. “We have a Chair of the Judiciary Committee who has committed to passing legislation that allows farm workers to earn legal status. We have a President that is prepared to sign it. Now we need the Senate to use every tool at its disposal to honor the people that we rely on to feed the nation and bring stability to the agricultural industry. If we’re serious about addressing the issue of agricultural labor, this is our moment.”


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News Roundup: New vaccine rules for federal workers; bipartisan infrastructure deal falls short

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In the news today: As COVID-19 cases continue to soar among unvaccinated Americans, President Joe Biden announced new vaccine requirements for federal workers, with a military vaccine mandate likely to follow. The Senate voted yesterday to begin debate on a “bipartisan” infrastructure plan. What’s the bipartisan part? That it’s less ambitious than needed and reeeeeally sketchy about its numbers. After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed the Biden administration doesn’t have the legal authority to unilaterally cancel student debt, advocates point out that the Higher Education Act very specifically says it does.

Here’s some of what you may have missed:


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Trump’s aides reportedly fretting over his potential toxic touch in future endorsements

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The latest? Trump laid his bam on a candidate in Tuesday’s special House election in Texas, and that candidate—Susan Wright, the widow of Rep. Ron Wright, who previously held the seat—lost. Convincingly. And now Trump’s aides and assorted hangers-on are starting to show just a wee bit of panic.

Politico:

Now, Trump and his advisers are trying to figure out what Wright’s defeat means for them — and how to contain any damage. Her loss Tuesday night sent shockwaves through the former president’s inner circle. Many privately concede the pressure is on them to win another special election next week in Ohio, where a Trump-backed candidate is locked in a close primary.

Yes, the Eye of Sour-Don now alights on Ohio, where another nail in Trump’s big, gilded, tricked-out King Tut loser coffin is being teed up as we speak. In Ohio’s special House election, Trump has backed coal lobbyist Mike Carey—because if you’re going to back losers, you might as well back losers from waning, has-been, loser industries like coal production.

Needless to say, the Trump team is currently on tenterhooks in advance of that election, because a Carey loss would allow Trump’s detractors to affix another big red loser stamp on Trump’s flaky, flop-sweaty forehead. More importantly, it might allow some of the nontrue believers in his party to finally spit out their ball gags. 

Politico:

Advisers worry that a second embarrassing loss would raise questions about the power of Trump’s endorsement — his most prized political commodity, which candidates from Ohio to Wyoming are scrambling to earn before next year’s midterms. More broadly, losses could undermine his standing in the Republican Party, where his popularity and influence has protected Trump’s relevance even as a former president barred from his social media megaphones.

While we should all root against Trump’s candidate next week, it’s important to note that Trump has never actually been a superstar endorser. His continued influence over his party and its elected officials is indisputable, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he cherry-picks his candidates in order to cultivate a phony winner’s veneer.

As CNN’s Chris Cillizza (I know, I know) noted in his July 28 column, Trump’s reputation as a kingmaker is, at the very least, exaggerated. Noting that Trump’s endorsement record is 141-42 in general elections, 3-2 in special elections, and 21-2 in battleground primaries, Cillizza writes:

In general elections, Trump has always padded his stats by endorsing lots and lots of incumbents who face almost zero chance of losing. Trump did a LOT of this in the 2020 cycle. For example, he endorsed Rep. James Comer in Kentucky’s 1st district; Comer won with 75% in a seat that Trump won by almost 50 points. No one thought Comer was losing. Trump’s endorsement had nothing to do with that fact. 

And, yes, as Cillizza acknowledges, Trump’s endorsement record in primaries is very good, but it won’t help the Republican Party much if he backs dozens of slavering sycophants and Q-weirdos in contested primaries only to see them flame out in their general elections. And, regardless, the scuttling of Trump’s preferred candidate on Tuesday shows he’s vulnerable, even when it comes to primary candidates (though, granted, he may not be not quite as vulnerable in exclusively Republican primaries).

Politico:

Unlike the Texas election, where voters from both parties were allowed to vote, the Ohio contest is a Republican primary. Trump allies say that means it will be a purer test of his ability to shape GOP nomination contests. At the same time, they argue that the more conservative nature of the race increases the odds that Trump’s endorsed candidate will be successful.

Some Republicans contend that Tuesday’s loss highlights a trend in Trump’s post-presidency: His endorsement doesn’t carry as much weight as when he was in office. After being kicked off social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, Trump has been forced to promote his endorsement largely through email blasts.

Aww, so sad.

I used to want Trump to shut up and go away forever. For one thing, he sounds like a glitchy jet engine sucking in the cast of The Jersey Shore. And I’ve had enough lies for one lifetime. But I happen to believe it’s in our best interest if he stays in the game. He’ll keep picking nonviable candidates and pushing the GOP further into Bonkersville, and his constant harping about election fraud will likely—as happened in the Georgia Senate runoff elections—depress turnout among his own base, many of whom already neglect to show up when Trump’s not on the ballot.

So keep talkin’, Loser Man. And keep hosting your Loser-paloozas. I can almost see the stink lines wafting off your stable of candidates, and it’s beautiful to behold.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Just $12.96 for the pack of 4! Or if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.


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Black woman’s travels with white adoptive sister end in police questioning

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Bailey told the news station that officers also questioned her mom and a social worker before following them to baggage claim. “The whole time they were talking with us, people kept staring at us, whispering and stuff,” Bailey said.

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She said it’s clear that she was racially profiled. “If the roles were changed and it was a white person walking off the plane with a Black person, like a Black child, I feel like things would be different,” Bailey said.

Frontier Airlines issued this statement to The Denver Channel:

”A concern was raised during the flight by another passenger who was sitting near the woman and child and suspected human trafficking. That passenger approached the flight crew with those concerns and subsequently completed a written report during the flight to document her observations. The captain was notified and felt an obligation to report the matter. Air travel is one of the most common means for human trafficking. Race played no part in the actions of the flight crew who were following established protocols”

Bailey said she and her family are considering suing the airline. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump tweeted on Tuesday: “After a flight, law enforcement accused Lakeyjanay Bailey of human trafficking her 4yo white sister, Olivia, & demanded to speak w/ their mother & a social worker to confirm their relationship! This traumatic experience shouldn’t have happened!”

Bailey’s experience, though frustrating, is unfortunately not unusual. Keia Jones-Baldwin, a Black North Carolina therapist, told The Today Show in 2019 she was accused of kidnapping her white son Princeton, who she was in the process of adopting. Jones-Baldwin was having car trouble and decided to knock on a local resident’s door when she said the person who answered the door called the police and accused her of stealing both the car and the child. She was again accused of kidnapping while vacationing with her family in Tennessee. Jones-Baldwin had decided to do a Western photoshoot. “The girl behind the camera would disappear and then come back. Finally she asked, ‘Is that your baby?’” Jones-Baldwin said. “I told her he was. Then she said, ‘I just took picture of this baby with his family two weeks ago.’”

The incident actually led to the authorities being called and Jones-Baldwin being made to show a custodial document proving she had permission to travel with her son. “We get a lot of stares,” Jones-Baldwin said. “I’m frequently asked if I’m Princeton’s babysitter … I get, ‘Why didn’t you let him stay with a family of his own race?’”

Her answer to the question was simple. “I don’t look at family as blood,” she said. “I look at family as love. When Princeton came into our lives, he came into our hearts.”

RELATED: A white man complained about Muslim woman on flight, launching 6-hour ordeal


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