Tag Archives: Nathaniel Norton

Legal Aid demands greater access to migrant workers

watermelon_smallThe Voice of America interviewed Maryland Legal Aid staffers Nora Rivero and Nathaniel Norton for a story about the problems they face reaching out to migrant farmworkers.

“Norton and Rivero say farm owners systematically intimidate them from doing their outreach to migrant workers,” said VOA reporter Mana Rabiee. “One farmer brandished a baseball bat at Rivero, they say, adding that another grower and his son threatened to shoot Norton.

“'[They] got out of their trucks and came up to the window started yelling very angry,’ Norton said. ‘One of the things the grower was yelling was, “You could be thieves. I’ve got the right to shoot people on my property.”

“Across the United States, outreach workers who deal with migrant farmworkers have similar stories of intimidation by growers. They say it’s designed to keep activists away from the poor farmworkers the activists hope to help.”

To see the segment and read the entire article, click here.

Legal Aid files complaint with U.N. about migrant camp access

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2012—A coalition of 28 non-profit legal and social services organizations submitted a complaint today to the U.N. arguing that the practice of denying farmworkers the right to have visitors and social services providers the right to meaningful access to migrant farmworker labor camps is a violation of human rights law.

Maryland Legal Aid, with technical assistance provided by Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law, spearheaded the complaint submitted to Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, by legal services, healthcare, workers’ rights, anti-trafficking organizations, and other community service programs that serve migrant farmworkers, representing all 50 states.

“This is the first time in history that these types of organizations have  joined together to submit a complaint  to a U.N. Special Procedure,” said Lauren E. Bartlett, director, Local Human Rights Lawyering Project at the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law. “The legal aid and other organizations are making history by taking such a strong stance on expanding the rights of migrant farmworkers across the United States.”

Migrant farmworkers often live on the rural farms and ranches where they work. “They are completely cut off from the rest of society,” said Reena Shah, Human Rights project director at Maryland Legal Aid, one of the organizations that signed the complaint. “They cannot get legal help or go see a doctor when they need to – even if they suffer from HIV/AIDS or pesticide poisoning or fall prey to domestic violence or even child abuse.”

“Farmers and ranchers regularly harass outreach workers and even threaten violence if they attempt to talk to migrant farmworkers,” said Nathaniel Norton, supervising attorney, Maryland Legal Aid’s Farmworker Program. “Without the right to receive visitors and access justice, the ongoing human rights violations will continue to go unaddressed and will likely be exacerbated.”
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights is expected to review the complaint and communicate with the U.S. government towards a solution to the issue of migrant camp access and the right of farmworkers to receive visitors.  The joint legal aid complaint argues that a coordinated federal solution is necessary, given the widespread problem and the inconsistency in state-based policies.

To read the entire press release (with contact info), click here.

Farmers await assistance from Washington, while U.N. may look at migrant worker conditions

Supervising attorney Nathaniel Norton, client Janet Gonzalez

Delmarva Public Radio interviewed two Maryland Legal Aid experts about the living conditions of migrant farmworkers on the Eastern Shore. In a story about the federal farm bill stalled in Congress. Farmworker Program supervising attorney Nathaniel Norton and Human Rights Program director Reena Shah talk about the way migrants live and their efforts to get the United Nations  involved in human rights abuses. For the link to the interview, click here.