Briana Reha-Klenske starts helping migrant farmworkers lacking insurance who need medical care by asking: for how long are you in Iowa? A bilingual health care manager, her patients are migrant farmworkers who are only in Iowa during the summers, which limits her ability to help.
ByRobert Holly and Claire Everett/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Ricardo Arismendez left his home in Temple, Texas, in the autumn of 2014 to work 12-hour days for $9.50 an hour at a corn processing facility in central Illinois. As part of the deal that included overtime pay, a job recruiter promised the then 21-year-old that the work in Farmer City would come with free temporary housing. See related: “Blighted Housing: A look inside eight migrant farmworker camps”
“I’m used to traveling a lot,” said Arismendez, who was starting his third season as a migrant agricultural worker. “I never settle in one spot, so for me it’s normal.”
But when Arismendez arrived at the housing, known as Nightingale Camp, he quickly learned the former hospital building in Rantoul had many problems — though it was inspected and licensed by the state of Illinois. The housing conditions were so poor, Arismendez said, that some workers refused to stay there, including one of the five friends he traveled with.
A lack of enforcement or inspections and legal loopholes are leaving migrant workers in Iowa vulnerable, cheated of wages and living in substandard housing. The problems include wage theft, broken contracts, substandard housing, working arrangement violations and Agricultural Workers Protection Act violations.