Volume 94, Number 4

October 2019

Humberto in the Field: The Racialization of H-2A Migrant Farmworkers and a Dual Solution to Its Resulting Abuses

Camil A. Sanchez-Palumbo

“That Mexican’s probably off right now in some bar, laughing at us.” Humberto Casarrubias-Sanchez, thirty-six, was a husband, father of three, and first-time beneficiary of the United States’ H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa. Hailing from Morelos, Mexico, he had just begun his first day of detasseling corn in Illinois when, by day’s end, Humberto was nowhere to be found. Presuming he had fled, crew leaders shrugged their shoulders, ending the search for him early. His body was found fifty days later in the middle of that same cornfield. Using Humberto’s story and the crew leader’s words as evidence, this Note argues that historic racialization of Latina/o immigrants has transcended into the H-2A agricultural workers visa program, and that burgeoning migrant farmworker coalitions are rewriting these racialized narratives through political action that may create the cultural groundswell for government change. Racialization, or the way in which society places nonwhites within a racial hierarchy, has resulted in a system of abuses of H-2A workers, including wage theft, sexual harassment, and human trafficking. Through direct appeals to top food purchasers, coalitions of migrant farmworkers have subverted their racialized identities via political empowerment, perhaps ultimately attaining a “dual solution” to this racialization that would include necessary government support.