Caravans gather across NYS to support undocumented, essential workers

Jun 1, 2020

Across New York state on Sunday, caravans of decorated cars paraded streets showing support for farmworkers and food chain workers, but the festive celebrations mark a troubling reality for undocumented, essential workers.

Organizations like Mujeres Divinas, Worker Justice Center of New York, Alianza Agricola and others sponsored the Caravans of Solidarity and Dignity for Farmworkers and Food Chain Workers on Sunday.

Wilmer Jimenez, associate Western NY coordinator for Rural & Migrant Ministry stands on the left next to Melina Draper with Finger Lakes Rapid Response Network in Geneva.
Credit Hannah DIckinson

In Sodus, Gabriela Quintanilla, the Western New York coordinator with the Rural & Migrant Ministry, sits in her car preparing for the caravan to begin. About 25 decorated cars join her.

In Wayne County, 32 people in 25 cars participated and in Geneva, 52 cars drove together in another caravan.

“We’re asking for access to child care for food chain workers, financial relief for undocumented workers and health and safety regulations for all workers on the job, especially farmworkers,” Quintanilla said.

She said that while her organization has been in conversation with the governor for two months, they still haven’t made enough progress for undocumented, essential workers.

“All that we’ve gotten so far is just a set of guidelines that have been sent to the different farms around New York State,” she said, “but there’s no protocol for implementation.”

In Cayuga County, dairy farmworkers have fallen sick and at least one person has died of the coronavirus, she said.

Back in April, dairy farmworker Victor Cortez in Wyoming County told WXXI News that the coronavirus has everyone fearful.

“We’re isolated from the population, and we continue working." Cortez said in Spanish." We haven’t stopped and we keep working. Our worry is, if we get infected, what would happen to us? What plan is there for us?”

While non-profits have offered some relief to essential workers who did not qualify for stimulus checks, because they are not U.S. citizens, Quintanilla said that the state needs to protect these workers.

Members of Mujeres Divinas gather for the caravan in Sodus, Wayne County.
Credit Gabriela Quintanilla