Legal Aid of North Carolina, Inc.
224 South Dawson Street - 27601 * P.O. Box 26626 * Raleigh, NC 27611
919.856.2180 * Fax 919.856.2187
Mary Lee Hall, Esq.
Senior Managing Attorney
For Immediate Release
July 23, 2013
Lori Johnson, Staff Attorney, Farmworker Unit, Legal Aid of North Carolina, (919) 856-2180
RALEIGH, July 22, 2013― Six North Carolina farmworker service and advocacy groups have joined a coalition of dozens of other legal, labor, healthcare, anti-trafficking, religious and social organizations from across the country to urge the U.S. Department of State to respond to a December 27, 2012 letter from three United Nations Special Rapporteurs. The letter criticizes the U.S. government's lack of response and its inattention to the right of farmworkers to have labor camp visitors that deprives farmworkers from meeting with legal aid, health care and other community service providers.
"Farmworkers often reside in remote labor camps set up by their employers, with no personal means of transportation," said Lori Johnson, staff attorney with the Farmworker Unit. "Some employers prohibit workers from having visitors as a means of controlling workers. Legal Aid lawyers, health care workers, and other social service providers are routinely harassed and threatened with arrest for criminal trespass, despite an Attorney General opinion stating that trespass charges would not stand against service providers present at the invitation of labor camp residents."
The U.N.'s letter is the result of a complaint that alleged that the lack of meaningful access to migrant labor camps where farmworkers live and work was a violation of human rights. The complaint to the U.N. was filed by a nationwide coalition.
"Controlling visitors to labor camps has been a trick of the trade for human traffickers, even here in North Carolina," Johnson said. "the State Department's silence in response to the U.N. Special Rapporteurs' concern over these basic human rights violations is disturbing. "
Legal Aid of North Carolina and its coalition partners strongly urge the U.S. to respond to the communication by the Special Rapporteurs. Coalition advocates also request a direct meeting with the U.S. to discuss existing barriers and remedies to resolving the issue of lack of meaningful access to labor camps.
North Carolina signatories to the complaint include the Farmworker Unit of Legal Aid of North Carolina, North Carolina Justice Center, Vecinos, Inc., Student Action with Farmworkers, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and the North Carolina Farmworkers' Project.
Remaining signatories include: Maryland Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Southern Migrant Legal Services, the Migrant Farm Worker Division of Colorado Legal Services, Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project, a project of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Farmworker Legal Services of Michigan, a division of Legal Services of South Central Michigan, El Comité de Apoyo de las Trabajadores Agrícolas, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc., Global Workers Justice Alliance,The Southern Poverty Law Center, California Rural Legal Assistance, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Farmworker Justice, Polaris Project, AFL-CIO, the South Texas Civil Rights Project, Fuerza Del Valle Workers' Center, the Freedom Network, Hispanic Affairs Project, United with Migrants, Migrant Justice, Public Justice Center, the Section on Underserved Occupational Populations of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sin Fronteras Organizing Project, Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project, Worker Justice Center of New York, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE), National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, Northwest Justice Project, Sarah Paoletti, Esq. [PA], Practice Professor and Director, Transnational Legal Clinic, Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Law, Lauren Bartlett, Esq., Megan Beaman, Esq., and Sister Yesenia Fernandez.
Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal help in civil cases to low-income North Carolinians. LANC's Farmworker Unit is a statewide project that serves agricultural workers throughout North Carolina. Learn more at www.legalaidnc.org or www.farmworkerlanc.org