New Mexico Farmworkers May Be Victims Of Illegal Pay Practices

You wake up at three in the morning. In El Paso. You board a bus, and spend the rest of your day herding livestock, picking chilies, or milking cows. Then, at the end of the day, you’re handed cash for your work, but it may not be enough.

“So if we work eight, nine, ten hours, they put down that we work less,” said an agricultural worker who goes through this process on a regular basis. He has asked not to use his real name for fear of retaliation. “For example, they don’t pay us for more than eight hours, so if you only get $40, they say that’s what you worked, eight hours.”

The worker said he’s been working in New Mexico for seven months, supports two children in Mexico, but says he hasn’t complained to his boss.

“With the bosses, there’s no talking to them; they pay just what they want,” he said. “No one claims differently. If someone speaks out, they no longer have work.”

Advocates at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty say this story is not uncommon. They conducted a six-month investigation into the state’s agricultural practices.

Listen to the story here at the Fronteras Desk.

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Tristan Ahtone

Tristan Ahtone is a member of the Kiowa Tribe and serves as associate editor for tribal affairs at High Country News. He has reported for PBS NewsHour, National Native News, Wyoming Public Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera America, Indian Country Today, and National Geographic, and more. Tristan’s stories have won multiple honors, including investigative awards from Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Gannett Foundation. He additionally was awarded a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University in 2017. He is president of the Native American Journalists Association.

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