From the Huffington Post:
WASHINGTON — Caitlin Berberich, managing attorney with the Southern Migrant Legal Services, a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said that when paralegals visit migrant camps, they are almost always ordered to leave by the landowners — sometimes with threats of police calls or worse. “One grower” in Arkansas, she said, chased “after our interns and our paralegals carrying a chainsaw.” The blade was not turned on, but the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre”moment left an impression.
“We regularly had employers follow them off, escort them off in their cars,” Berberich said of her legal team. “A couple growers we know are notorious for preventing us from having access.” One camp, she explained, has a security detail, its main purpose apparently to escort Berberich’s paralegals off the property.
Berberich’s experiences are not unfamiliar to lawyers, health care workers, and community advocates who have attempted to oversee migrant camps and check in on the tomato pickers, sheep herders, and other migrant workers across the U.S., from eastern Maryland to remote corners of Colorado to whole swaths of the deep South. Often these advocates provide the only ties the migrant workers have to local communities and address vital issues like wage theft and basic health needs like HIV testing.
On Thursday, a coalition of 28 nonprofit legal and social service organizations filed a complaint with the United Nations, alleging that migrant workers have been unlawfully denied access to assistance. The complaint, organized by Maryland Legal Aid with help from the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law, argues that these barriers amount to a violation of human rights law.
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