The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Impact of Anti-Immigration Policies On Migrant Dairy Workers

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 9:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
David Becerra, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
M. Alex Wagaman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Louise M. Quijano, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Jason T. Castillo, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Lorena Valle, MSW, Graduate Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background & Purpose: There are an estimated 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the U.S (National Center for Farmworker Health, 2012; Pew Hispanic Center, 2013).  Agricultural and dairy work is among the most dangerous work in the U.S. (Poss & Pierce, 2003).  In addition to the dangers inherent in dairy work, undocumented migrant workers may face additional stress as a result of the recent increase in immigration enforcement and criminalization of undocumented status (Harrison & Lloyd, 2012).  Undocumented migrant workers provide important contributions to the U.S. economy but whose struggles remain unknown by the general public.  It is important to understand how migrant dairy workers are impacted by recent immigration policies and increased immigration enforcement in order to inform policies makers and promote social justice for migrant workers. 


Methods:  Participants were recruited from two dairies in Northern Colorado in the Fall of 2010.  Fifteen interviews (12 males and 3 females) were conducted using a semi-structured interview schedule.  The participants’ ages ranged from 22 to 50 (mean= 33).  Participants were asked about the impact that immigration policies had on their wellbeing, their behaviors, and their families.  Participants were asked follow up questions as needed. Each interview lasted an approximately one hour and were conducted in Spanish.  The transcripts were read multiple times, labeled, and categorized using open coding.  Members of the research team independently analyzed the interview transcripts, but in order to ensure trustworthiness the research team discussed the coding schemes, categories, and themes until consensus was reached.  

Results: The interviews revealed that immigration policies and enforcement negatively impacted migrant dairy workers.  Participants revealed how these issues that have resulted from immigration policies and enforcement have negatively impacted them and their families.  Three major categories emerged from participants’ discussion of immigration: fear, changes in behavior, and perceptions of discrimination.   Their narratives revealed family and cultural strengths that can be used by social workers to help address the negative impacts of immigration policies and enforcement on migrant workers.


Conclusions & Implications: Although Colorado had not passed any significant anti-immigrant legislation at the time the interviews were conducted, the media coverage of Arizona’s SB1070 increased participants’ fear of deportation and made them feel they were targets of discrimination, which often resulted in changes in behaviors and were increasingly cautious when outside of their homes.  When an individual is unsure whether or not he or she is the target of discrimination, there can be negative health implications (Pachter et al., 2010).  In addition, fear of deportation keeps many from seeking help from agencies and may increase the social isolation of families (Capps et al., 2007).  Migrant dairy workers are an oppressed and vulnerable population whose needs are often not understood or addressed.  A greater understanding of the issues facing migrant workers will enable social workers develop strategies to help address those needs and advocate for changes in immigration policies in order to meet the demands for labor but also decrease the negative health and social outcomes allow migrant workers in the U.S.