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PNS Daily Newscast - October 19, 2018 


Senator Corker demands the Trump administration share intelligence on the killing of a Washington Post columnist. Also on the Friday rundown: groups sue over the Texas border wall plan; and the soggy summer in some states may lead to higher pumpkin prices for Halloween.

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Wash. Groups March One Year After Farmworker's Death

Some farmworkers' rights groups say the H-2A work visa program is exploitive. (Edgar Franks/Community to Community Development)
Some farmworkers' rights groups say the H-2A work visa program is exploitive. (Edgar Franks/Community to Community Development)
August 3, 2018

LYNDEN, Wash. – This weekend, marchers are honoring the one-year anniversary of a farmworker's death in northern Washington. On Sunday, faith, environmental and labor groups are leading the "March for Dignity" from Lynden to Sumas, where 28-year-old Honesto Silva Ibarra fell ill last year while working on Sarbanand Farms and later died.

Ibarra was working through the H-2A program, which allows farms to recruit workers from other countries and gives them temporary visas.

But Edgar Franks, the civic engagement coordinator for the farmworkers' rights group Community to Community Development, calls the program exploitive, saying laborers sometimes aren't given rest breaks and put up with abusive supervisors.

"Any efforts of organizing is deeply discouraged and punished," he says. "So this is an ideal program for growers that just basically care about the bottom line and not about the livelihoods of the workers or the community that surrounds all the farms."

Sarbanand Farms was cleared of responsibility for Ibarra's death, but the state did fine the farms more than $70,000 in June for failing to provide rest and food breaks. Workers under the H-2A visa are tied closely to their employers and can be sent back to their country if they stop working.

Last year, about 15,000 H-2A workers were expected to be employed in the Evergreen State.

There will be a community forum on the H-2A program in Bellingham on Saturday. Franks says folks at the forum will discuss possible alternatives to H-2A.

"Hopefully, this can start a process of finding what are those community-led solutions," he adds. "Ones that really center human life and our workers and our communities' values over just profits for corporations."

Sunday's march starts at sunrise and is 12 miles long, passing through the farmlands with many workers in the field. When it reaches Sumas, organizers will hold a "People's Tribunal" to demand justice for Ibarra's death.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA