Transcript: March 1, 2013

JOHN LARSON: Welcome to Need to Know. I’m John Larson reporting tonight from Main Street in Salinas California. As politicians in the nation’s capital tonight wrestle with the budget, we’d like to look ahead to another one of their priorities: immigration reform and how it plays out on main street. We’ve also come to this main street because it has much to tell us about California’s population trends which show us that California like much of the nation is increasingly very rich, very poor and Latino. Latinos later this year will begin a historic transition from a minority in America’s most populous state to the majority. Oh and one other thing…this is John Steinbeck country. Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men were all inspired by people who lived here. As you’ll soon see people still plant their dreams in the soil much as they did in many of his novels.

HERB BEHRENS: (reading Steinbeck) The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.  It is a long, narrow swale between two ranges of mountains.  And the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay.

JOHN LARSON (narration): The first time you hear Steinbeck read, you understand why so many loved him, and why so many HERE, IN CENTRAL CALIFORNIA’S MONTEREY COUNTY – DID NOT..

HERB BEHRENS: (reading Steinbeck) Salinas was never a pretty town.  It took a darkness from the swamps.  The high, gray fog hung over it. The mountains on both sides of the valley were beautiful.  But Salinas was not.  And we knew it.

JOHN LARSON (narration): At 100 Main Street IN DOWNTOWN SALINAS – the National Steinbeck Center pays tribute TO THE local boy MADE GOOD: THE great american author, and Nobel Laureate: John Steinbeck.  HERB BEHRENS IS the Center’s Archivist.

JOHN LARSON: What do you think it was that got him in so much hot water here in Salinas–

HERB BEHRENS: He told the truth that people didn’t want to hear.   They didn’t want to hear about the Associated Farmers and the conditions that they had there.

JOHN LARSON (narration): The truth that Salinas didn’t want to hear BACK in the 1930’s were stories about the poor treatment of migrant workers. desperate PEOPLE who fled the dustbowl in Oklahoma FOR work in the fields of California.

(Scene from “The Grapes of Wrath” film)

MIGRANT: Ok mister, whatcha payin?

MANAGER: Two and a half cents.

JOHN LARSON (narration): …IT WAS IMMORTALIZED IN THE FILM VERSION OF STEINBECK’S CLASSIC. “THE GRAPES OF WRATH”

MANAGER: Take it or leave it – there are 200 men coming in from the south that’ll be glad to get it.

JOHN LARSON (narration): THE BOOK PROVOKED A LOCAL OUTCRY –  IT WAS PULLED FROM LIBRARY SHELVES AND BURNED JUST A BLOCK OFF MAIN  STREET

DELIA SALDIVAR RUNS RADIO BILINGUE – AN IMMIGRANT-ORIENTED RADIO STATION AT 161 MAIN STEET – JUST A BLOCK FROM THE STEINBECK CENTER.  SALDIVAR SAYS – JUST AS IT DID IN STEINBECK’S DAY – MIGRANT LABOR, POVERTY AND WEALTH ALL STILL INTERSECT ON MAIN.

DELIA SALDIVAR: Well, Main Street is, like, at the center.  South Salinas is where all the owners of the ranch and the founders of this Salinas live.  The rich people; white people. I can say that, East Salinas is where all the farm worker live.

JOHN LARSON (narration): THE HISTORIC MAIN STREET IS CHARMING… LINED WITH LOCAL SHOPS, BUT DRIVE MAIN STREET IN EITHER DIRECTION, AND YOU’LL SEE FARMS — WHICH HAVE ALL DONE VERY WELL HERE – PART OF CALIFORNIA’S 43 BILLION DOLLAR AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY. IN FACT, JUST A FEW MILES DOWN THE ROAD, THE COUNTY INCLUDES THE MONTEREY PENINSULA, HOME TO PEBBLE BEACH GOLF COURSE, BIG SUR AND SOME OF THE WEALTHIEST PEOPLE IN AMERICA.  BUT THE VALLEY’S WEALTHIEST INDUSTRY, DEPENDS ON ITS POOREST RESIDENTS.

DELIA SALDIVAR: Farm workers are very important.  They are the fuel for the economy in this county.

JOHN LARSON (narration): SOME FARMWORKERS WHO WORK THE FIELDS OFF MAIN, LIVE FAR FROM SIGHT IN WHAT THEY CALL “LABOR CAMPS’ – CHEAP, POORLY BUILT APARTMENTS OUT IN THE FIELDS. NEED TO KNOW WAS GIVEN RARE ACCESS INTO THE HOMES AND LIVES OF  FARMWORKERS WHO LIVE IN THESE CAMPS… DOCUMENTED AND UNDOCUMENTED FAMILIES….. FAMILIES AMONG THE POOREST PEOPLE IN THE NATION.

JOHN LARSON:  How hard is it?

MARIA CARO: It’s hard.   It’s really hard.

JOHN LARSON (narration): MARIA CARO LIVES WITH HER HUSBAND, THREE CHILDREN AND VISITING MOTHER IN THE SAME SMALL LABOR CAMP FLAT SHE GREW UP IN.  BACK THEN, 13 RELATIVES ALL CRAMMED INTO THIS POORLY INSULATED TWO-ROOM APARTMENT.

JOHN LARSON: I noticed in your home, though, you’ve got no insulation, those boards must get pretty cold.  It’s cold right now.

MARIA CARO: Yeah.  It gets pretty cold.

JOHN LARSON (narration): BOTH MARIA AND HER HUSBAND, JOSE BECAME LEGAL RESIDENTS BY 1997.   JOSE HAD JUST RETURNED HOME AFTER WEEKS OF PICKING LETTUCE IN ARIZONA .  HE’S A MIGRANT WORKER WHO TRAVELS WITH THE CROP. WORK OFTEN BEGINS FOR HIM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, WHEN THE LETTUCE IS CRISP AND COLD, AND CONTINUES LATE INTO THE DAY.

MARIA CARO: It’s like they barely have time, like, to eat, and to take lunch, and to rest.

JOHN LARSON (narration): LAST YEAR, THE FAMILY EARNED 25 THOUSAND DOLLARS– WHICH MEANS THEY’RE LIVING IN POVERTY.

THEIR SON JESSE WAS BORN A SEVERE HEMOPHILIAC. SO TWICE A WEEK, THEY HAVE TO INJECT LIFE SAVING MEDICINE INTO HIS HEART.  JOSE USED TO HAVE TO HOLD HIS SON DOWN FOR THIS… BUT NOW ALL HE NEEDS TO DO TO OFFER A LITTLE ENCOURAGEMENT.

HIS MEDICAL CARE IS ALL COVERED BY CALIFORNIA CHILDREN SERVICES, WHICH MARIA’S FAMILY QUALIFIES FOR BECAUSE THEY ARE LEGAL RESIDENTS.

WHEN JESSE WAS ONE, HE ALMOST DIED FROM AN INFECTION… AN EXPERIENCE, SAYS MARIA, THAT CHANGED HER.

MARIA CARO:  I think he change the way I see life.  As long as my child is okay, and he’s fine, I’m happy.

JOHN LARSON (narration): LABOR CAMPS LIKE MARIA’S ARE SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE VALLEY – SOMETIMES THEY’RE OWNED BY THE ADJOINING FARMS; SOMETIMES BY INDEPENDENT LANDLORDS – BUT THE LATEST CENSUS RESEARCH REVEALS THAT THE CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN THEM, ARE AMONG THE POOREST IN THE STATE.

ANN O’LEARY: I think it’s amazing that California, who many people think of as Silicon Valley and Hollywood, is actually one of the poorest states in the country.

JOHN LARSON (narration): WE CAUGHT UP WITH ANN O’LEARY AT “FIRST AWAKENINGS” – ONE OF SALINA’S MOST POPULAR BREAKFAST SPOTS AT 171 MAIN STREET. – SHE’S A DIRECTOR AT “NEXT GENERATION”, A NON-PARTISAN THINK TANK BASED IN SAN FRANCISCO.

O’LEARLY SAYS THAT NEW CENSUS DATA SHOWS CALIFORNIA NOT ONLY HAS THE MOST POOR PEOPLE IN THE NATION, BUT THE HIGHEST RATE AMONG ALL STATES. AND CHILDREN – PARTICULARLY MINORITY CHILDREN – ARE HIT THE HARDEST.

ANN O’LEARY: We’re sitting here in Monterey county and it’s very striking that, you know, 30% of kids are– who are Hispanic are in poverty.  But less than 8% of white children are in poverty. They’re already working incredibly hard.  So this isn’t about people getting social welfare who weren’t working.  This is about how do we make sure that they have an ability to provide for their families?

JOHN LARSON (narration): LISTEN TO THE STORY OF ARTURO MANZO’S FAMILY AND YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHAT O’LEARY’S TALKING ABOUT.  ARTURO IS A SECOND GENERATION FARMWORKER. AND LIVES WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO KIDS.

JOHN LARSON (narration): THE MANZOS LIVE IN ANOTHER LABOR CAMP IN THE VALLEY… ALONG WITH ABOUT A DOZEN OTHER FAMILIES.  THERE’S NO STREETLIGHTS, NO BUS SERVICE, IT’S JUST OUT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELDS.  WITHOUT A CAR, YOU’RE STUCK.

JOHN LARSON (narration): ARTURO’S BECAME A LEGAL RESIDENT FOLLOWING THE AMNESTY PROGRAM BACK IN 1986… HE PICKS CELERY FOR A MAJOR FOOD COMPANY… A COMPANY, HE SAYS, THAT FOR 27 YEARS NEVER GAVE HIM OR HIS CO-WORKERS – A RAISE.

ARTURO MANZO: When I first started, I used to make about $500 dollars a week and that’s what I make now. But back then things were much cheaper.

JOHN LARSON (narration): FIELDWORK IS A TOUGH JOB THAT VERY FEW AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE WILLING TO DO.  THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR RANKS IT AMONG THE MOST HAZARDOUS JOBS IN THE COUNTRY…  THEY’RE EXPOSED TO THE WEATHER, PESTICIDES, AND HOURS OF BACKBREAKING WORK – MANY FOR JUST OVER MINIMUM WAGE.

ARTURO MANZO: Farm work is very difficult, it’s very hard. Because we’re out in the sun, we are out in the wind. We are always wet. It doesn’t matter what the weather is, we have to work. Just to make $8 dollars an hour, maybe 9 dollars an hour.

JOHN LARSON (narration): LIKE MANY FARMWORKERS, ARTURO IS ONLY OFFERED SEASONAL WORK, AND EARNS ABOUT $10,000 A YEAR.  HIS WIFE IS A HAIRDRESSER, SO TOGETHER THEY EARN ABOUT $25,000 A YEAR.  THEIR RENT IS $700 A MONTH FOR THIS SMALL THREE ROOM APARTMENT.

ARTURO MANZO: You can see how I live. There are no luxuries. There’s no new cars. There’s no new clothes. I can only afford the basic necessities. And I don’t know how to explain it but somehow we make it.

JOHN LARSON (narration): AND ANOTHER THING… ALL THOSE YEARS OF FERTILIZERS AND PESTICIDES HAVE CONTAMINATED THE GROUND WATER.

HORACIO AMEZQUITA: Well, this is the first well that was contaminated

JOHN LARSON (narration): IN A DIFFERENT LABOR CAMP JUST DOWN THE ROAD FROM THE MANZOS RESIDENTS HAIR STARTED FALLING OUT AND THEY DEVELOPED BAD RASHES…. IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THE LOCAL WATER COMPANY HAD BEEN DELIBERATELY FALSIFYING WATER TESTS… HIDING JUST HOW CONTAMINATED IT REALLY WAS.  A FEDERAL JUDGE FINED THE COMPANY HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.

JOHN LARSON: So nobody can get water out of it?

HORACIO AMEZQUITA: No.  They said that– they have to cap them in order to avoid more contamination on the aquifers.

JOHN LARSON (narration): NOW, RESIDENTS OF SEVERAL CAMPS MUST RELY ON BOTTLED WATER PROVIDED BY THEIR LANDLORDS, AND MOST EVERYONE AGREES IT’S NEVER ENOUGH.  SOME SPEND 10 PERCENT OF THEIR SMALL INCOMES BUYING THEIR OWN DRINKING WATER.

HORACIO AMEZQUITA: The nitrates are seeping into the aquifers and nobody’s paying, and at the end, the ones that live in the place that is contaminated end up paying the price.

JOHN LARSON: What would happen if you demanded the landlord to give you all the water you needed?

ARTURO MANZO: No one would ever do that. No one would want to do that because we would be afraid that we might get kicked out of here and have to go rent an apartment that’s more expensive. And we can’t afford to rent another apartment.

DISC JOCKEY:  90.9 radio bilingue doing it for you on a Thursday night…

JOHN LARSON (narration): BACK ON MAIN STREET IN SALINAS, RADIO BILINGUE MIXES THEIR MUSIC WITH A DOSE OF ACTIVISM.

DELIA SALDIVAR: The mission of the radio station is to empower Latinos to take actions and help themselves.

JOHN LARSON (narration): A MISSION SALDIVAR SAYS IS STILL CRITICAL. FOR EXAMPLE, IN DECEMBER, 28 ORGANIZATIONS FILED A COMPLAINT WITH THE UNITED NATIONS, THAT’S RIGHT THE UNITED NATIONS – THAT GROWERS HERE – AND IN OTHER STATES — BLOCK SOCIAL SERVICE WORKERS FROM HELPING FARMWORKERS WHO LIVE IN THE LABOR CAMPS – A VIOLATION, THEY SAY, OF HUMAN RIGHTS.  AND ALTHOUGH SALDIVAR DID NOT WISH TO COMMENT ABOUT IT, GROWERS HAVE REPORTEDLY BLOCKED ACCESS TO THE RADIO STATION’S OWN BROADCASTING TOWER – THAT’S IT RIGHT AT THE TOP OF THE HILL – IT’S A MOVE SOME SAY IS A DIRECT REPRISAL FOR THE STATION ADVOCATING FOR FARMWORKER’S RIGHTS.

JOHN LARSON: Has it gotten much better since– the days that Steinbeck — was writing about the Oklahoma migrants?

DELIA SALDIVAR: No, it’s the same.  And it’s getting worse. So the struggle continues.

JOHN LARSON (narration): WHILE YOU MIGHT THINK THE STRUGGLE ALWAYS PITS OWNERS AGAINST LABOR, THAT’S NOT SO. TAYLOR FARMS, BASED IN SALINAS, IS ONE OF THE LARGEST PROCESSOR OF FRESH PRODUCE IN THE WORLD. THE COMPANY PACKAGES MANY OF THE BAGGED SALADS YOU SEE IN STORES ACROSS THE NATION.  IN THEIR MASSIVE PROCESSING PLANT, TAYLOR FARMS EMPLOYS MOSTLY LATINO WORKERS WHO ENJOY A UNION CONTRACT, YEAR-ROUND WORK, WITH FULL BENEFITS.

BRUCE TAYLOR: The work ethic of the immigrant, and in some cases illegal immigrant, has been unbelievably good.

JOHN LARSON (narration): BRUCE TAYLOR IS CEO OF TAYLOR FARMS, AND ALTHOUGH THE COMPANY COULD BUILD ITS NEW, CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS FOR MUCH LESS JUST OUT OF TOWN, IT’S CHOOSING TO BUILD AT 140 MAIN STREET.  WE SPOKE AT THE CONSTRUCTION SITE

JOHN LARSON: There’s so many other places you could put your corporate headquarters?

BRUCE TAYLOR: Oh, we could put them anywhere.  And it’d probably be a lot more logical, but we wanna see if we can recreate a downtown experience in a small town.

JOHN LARSON (narration): TAYLOR TOLD US THEY FOLLOW THE LETTER OF IMMIGRATION LAW. THEY EVEN VOLUNTARILY USE A PROGRAM CALLED “E-VERIFY” – IT’S A FEDERAL DATABASE USED TO CONFIRM A WORKERS’ LEGAL STATUS – AND ITS CENTRAL TO MANY OF THE REFORMS BEING DISCUSSED IN WASHINGTON D.C.

BRUCE TAYLOR: Worked pretty well until we were visited by Immigration and Custom Enforcement in Tennessee.  And lo and behold, 70 of our folks that had passed E-Verify didn’t pass their screen.  So there’s a way around every program, apparently.

JOHN LARSON (narration): TAYLOR HOPES THAT CONGRESS will FINALLY REFORM IMMIGRATION LAW – NOT ONLY BECAUSE HIS BUSINESS DEPENDS ON IMMIGRANT LABOR – BUT SO ALL BUSINESSES – BIG AND SMALL – CAN COMPETE ON A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD.

BRUCE TAYLOR Just give us the rules, right?  Give us the rules and stick by the rules.  If it’s a guest worker program, great. If it’s– a pathway to citizenship, that’s great too.  But just– we’re more interested in I guess, certainty, than we are in what the answer is specifically.

JOHN LARSON (narration): WHAT IS CERTAIN, IS THAT WHAT SPECIFICALLY HAPPENS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE PEOPLE IN THE FIELDS. URIEL ALCAZAR SAYS HE WORKED FOR A LARGE FARM FOR 12 YEARS. HE HAD NO PAPERS, BUT SAYS THE HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT HELPED UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS FILL OUT PHONY PAPERWORK SO THEY APPEARED LEGAL.

URIEL ALCAZAR: He’s the one who adjusted my paperwork so that I could be legal there on the job.

JOHN LARSON: But everyone knew that you weren’t

URIEL ALCAZAR: Everyone in this company knew. Even the supervisor knew.

JOHN LARSON (narration): FEELINGS ABOUT UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS ARE STRONG. THEY STRAIN GOVERNMENT BUDGETS FOR HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. BUT UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS ALSO PAY BILLIONS IN TAXES INTO ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS LIKE SOCIAL SECURITY FOR WHICH THEY USUALLY GET NOTHING IN RETURN – EXCEPT, ACCORDING TO MANY WE MET, POOR TREATMENT.

URIEL ALCAZAR: Well our boss, he’d say, “You little Mexicans,” he’d say “You pieces of s***,” he’d say things like that and he’d make us work long hours and wouldn’t put them down on our timecards.

JOHN LARSON: They’re talking about citizenship for agricultural workers like you — what would that mean if you could become documented?

URIEL ALCAZAR: Well, to be able to work legally in this country so that we wouldn’t be treated so poorly. We’re waiting for that.  We pray to God that will happen.

JOHN LARSON (narration): ANOTHER THEME WE HEARD IN THE CAMPS WAS THAT THEY BELIEVED PERHAPS THE BEST WAY OUT OF POVERTY WAS EDUCATION…. AND WE FOUND EVIDENCE OF THAT AT 726 SOUTH MAIN… SALINAS HIGH SCHOOL.

JOHN LARSON: When we first talked, you referred to your students as ” John’s kids.”

JUDITH PETERSON: Um hmm.

JOHN LARSON (narration): JUDITH PETERSON IS THE PRINCIPAL OF THE SCHOOL. SHE CALL HER STUDENT’S ‘JOHN’S KIDS’ BECAUSE JOHN STEINBECK WENT TO SCHOOL HERE, AND HER STUDENTS ALL STUDY HIS WORK.

JUDITH PETERSON: He was just a kid in this school.  And when he was in this school, he had to stop his education at one point and go work the fields.

JOHN LARSON (narration): MANY OF PETERSON’S STUDENTS ARE THE CHILDREN OF MIGRANTS AND POOR. OF HER 2500 STUDENTS, MOST ARE OF MEXICAN DESCENT, AND LIVE IN POVERTY. ONLY ONE IN FIVE WILL GO ON FOR MORE EDUCATION AFTER HIGH SCHOOL — A STATISTIC SHE’S DETERMINED TO CHANGE.

JUDITH PETERSON: We have to make sure that the school system takes care of those kids if we’re nurturing the American dream. I know that puts a lot of onus on the school districts.

ANN O’LEARY:  In some sense, in California we’re already in the future.  We have huge disparities, in terms of the educational outcomes; how our white kids do versus how our Hispanic children do. This is coming to the rest of the United States very soon.  And we need to get serious and actually say that one of the ways we disrupt poverty, is to provide these children with a good education.

JOHN LARSON (narration): ANN O’LEARY SAYS THE LESSON CALIFORNIA HAS FOR THE REST OF THE NATION IS JUST HOW STRONGLY CALIFORNIA’S PROBLEM – ITS GROWING POPULATION OF POOR PEOPLE – IS LINKED TO EDUCATION.

ANN OLEARY: The children of those families, if they can’t make it out to get through to college, get a college degree, they’re gonna be living the same situation. You know, children who are born into poverty and live in poverty in their childhood — two-thirds of them are gonna stay in poverty or just above the poverty line in their adulthood.  Unless they get an education.

JOHN LARSON (narration): EACH MORNING BEFORE SUNRISE, MAYDELI MARTINEZ IS UP. SHE’S DAUGHTER OF A MIGRANT WORKER.  SHE’S ALSO A U.S. CITIZEN – BUT MOST OF THE SEVENTEEN RELATIVES AND FARMWORKERS WHO LIVE IN HER SMALL HOUSE DURING THE HARVEST… ARE UNDOCUMENTED.

MAYDELI MARTINEZ: It’s a house with four rooms, but there’s a lot of people. It was not good, but I got used to it already

JOHN LARSON (narration): A STUDENT AT SALINAS HIGH SCHOOL, THIS YEAR MAYDELI MARTINEZ AWARDED A CALIFORNIA MIGRANT STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD.  SHE WANTS TO BE A PEDIATRICIAN.  HER INSPIRATION? HER FATHER.

MAYDELI MARTINEZ: I saw my dad crying and he told me that, “I’m really, really proud of you.”  And he has always been proud of me, he’s always been there for me, supporting me.  I don’t know, my dad is like a role model to me.

JOHN LARSON:   What’s your G.P.A.?

GERADO VILLICANA: 4.2

JOHN LARSON: What’s your G.P.A.?

ARISMEL TENA:  4.2.

JOHN LARSON (narration): WE SPOKE WITH FOUR STUDENTS AT SALINAS HIGH, ALL CHILDREN OF FARMWORKERS, MOST DREAMING OF BEING THE FIRST IN THEIR FAMILIES TO ATTEND COLLEGE.

ROBERTO CERDA:  It just increases the volume.

JOHN LARSON (narration): ROBERTO CERDA – BORN ALMOST DEAF, HIS FAMILY UNDOCUMENTED – WANTS TO BE A DOCTOR… FOR THE DEAF.

JOHN LARSON: So, you want to be a doctor for people like you?

ROBERTO CERDA: Yeah.  Yeah, I want to be able to give back to the society that was able to provide me with the hearing aids.  And I also want to help out students and elderly people.

JOHN LARSON: Now, is that something that you just wrote on your college application, or is that what you actually want to do?

ROBERTO CERDA: Yeah, I actually want to do that.

JOHN LARSON (narration): A NATIONAL PEW RESEARCH PROJECT RELEASED JUST LAST MONTH SHOWS THAT CHILDREN OF LATINO IMMIGRANTS – THE SECOND GENERATION, JUST LIKE THESE KIDS – PLACE MORE EMPHASIS ON HARD WORK AND CAREER SUCCESS THAN THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

ROBERTO CERDA: That’s my motivation.  I don’t want to let my dad regret the fact that he had to do all that.  I want to make him feel proud.

ARISMEL TENA: Everything I do, I don’t do it for myself.  I do it either for my family or my sisters and brothers

JOHN LARSON (narration): SENIOR DIANA CANO SAYS CHILDREN OF MIGRANT WORKERS SEE HARDSHIP AND SACRIFICE, UP CLOSE.   HER MOM’S A FARMWORKER – WHO JUGGLES MULTIPLE JOBS TO SUPPORT DIANA.

DIANA CANO: She’s a very strong woman, first of all.  And she’s the only one here providing for me.  It’s just me and her now.  And I see it because– she currently found a lump in her breast.  And even though she has it, she still wakes up every morning and goes to work.

JOHN LARSON (narration): DIANA AND HER MOM ARE BOTH UNDOCUMENTED. DIANA SAYS WHEN HER MOM IS PICKING, HER HANDS ARE SO SWOLLEN AND FILLED WITH THORNS SHE CAN’T USE A TOWEL TO DRY THEM OFF. AND, WITH NO HEALTH INSURANCE, WHAT LITTLE MEDICAL CARE DIANA’S MOM RECEIVES SHE HAS TO PAY FOR OUT OF HER OWN POCKET

DIANA CANO: They told her at the hospital that she needs to take care of herself.  And that she needs to lay off work.  And even though right now she’s not picking raspberries, she’s still applying in a lot of places, and she still goes and cleans houses.  She babysits.

JOHN LARSON (narration): OUT IN THE LABOR CAMPS WE ALSO FOUND PEOPLE WHO ARE FOCUSED ON EDUCATION. FOR MARIA CARO, CARING FOR HER HEMOPHILIAC SON JESSE PLANTED A SEED.  SHE NOW STUDIES EVERY SPARE MOMENT, ATTENDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND DREAMS OF ONE DAY BEING A NURSE.

JOHN LARSON :  How’d you do last semester?

MARIA CARO:  I did pretty good. I got straight A’s, a 4.0 average for last semester, so I’m very pleased and I know I can do it.

ARTURO MANZO:  I was really good at school.  I went one year to university but there was no more money and that’s where my dreams stopped.

JOHN LARSON (narration): FOR ARTURO MANZO HE CAME TO AMERICA… AND WORKED THE FIELDS… SO HIS KIDS’ DREAMS WOULDN’T STOP.   HIS DAUGHTER WAS HER CLASS’ SALUTORIAN. HIS SON A VALECDICTORIAN..AND IS NOW IN COLLEGE ON A FULL SCHOLARSHIP STUDYING TO BE AN ENGINEER.

JOHN LARSON: Where did he get all the brain power? Has to be from somebody.  Your wife? Could it be from your wife?

ARTURO MANZO: Maybe a little bit from each one of us.

JOHN LARSON (narration): WHEN YOU LISTEN TO PEOPLE HERE, YOU SENSE THAT CALIFORNIA – WITH BY FAR THE MOST IMMIGRANTS – KNOWS BETTER THAN ANY STATE THE IMMENSE COSTS OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRATION, THE DRAIN ON ITS BUDGETS… BUT CALIFORNIANS MAY ALSO BEST UNDERSTAND THE COST OF CURRENT IMMIGRATION POLICY : WHICH REGARDLESS OF WHAT PEOPLE FEEL ABOUT IT,  IS GROWING POORER AND POORER AMERICANS, IN ONE OF THE RICHEST VALLEY’S IN THE WORLD.

HERB BEHRENS (reading Steinbeck): …it became known that this land was rich beyond belief.  And Salinas became rich.

JOHN LARSON (narration): AND SO WE’LL END THIS VISIT THE WAY WE BEGAN – WITH THE WORDS OF JOHN STEINBECK.  ONLY THIS TIME – LET’S HAVE THE STUDENT’S READ, THE FARMWORKER’S CHILDREN…

STUDENT (reading Steinbeck): The Salinas Valley is in Northern California…

JOHN LARSON (narration): …THE ONE’S HOPING TO LEAVE THE FIELDS BEHIND, AND SOON WRITE STORIES OF THEIR OWN:

STUDENTS (reading Steinbeck): The cutting and packing sheds require labor — women and men to prepare the lettuce for the crates and icers and mailers. These were migrant people who went from one place to another as the crop came in. There were a great many of them and they worked some by hour, and some by piecework.

JOHN LARSON: We are told that it could be summer by the time any immigration reform is finalized in Washington DC. By that time here in the Salinas Valley the harvest will be well under way and no doubt many in the fields will be watching.

JOHN LARSON [narration]: THIS WEEK ONLINE, TAKE PART IN OUR WEEKLY POLL.THE TOPIC: IMMIGRATION AND OUR ECONOMY. AND, TAKE A TOUR OF SALINAS DURING THE STEINBECK YEARS. VISIT PBS.ORG/NEED TO KNOW.

JOHN LARSON: That’s it for this edition of Need to Know. I’m John Larson thanks for joining us.

 

 
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Comments

  • George

    In addition to its strong chemical dependency, U.S. agriculture has a serious slave labor problem. The stories of migrant farm worker conditions told in this show were quite tame. The prospect of meaningful and permanent immigration reform will remain an illusion until consumers pay food prices that support living wages for agricultural workers. It’s that simple. This next round of immigration reform discussion may yield some limited amnesty program and easing of INS enforcement. But, we are delusional if we believe that the current agricultural system will reform itself. What can we do? Buy fair trade and organic whenever you can. Join a CSA and tell the CSA that you value fair trade labor conditions for workers.

  • Michelle

    If Ann O’Leary’s comments are typical of what passes for thinking at Next Generation, we’re in trouble. No student is doomed to poverty because he/she doesn’t go to college. This national obsession with sending everyone to college is extremely harmful to our students. It suggests that the only way to be successful (whatever that means) is to graduate from college and that if one chooses not to attend college, he/she is a failure. What bunk! I wonder if Ms. O’Leary has ever looked at employment statistics in the U. S. If she had, she would know that most of the jobs here in the U. S. do not require a college education although some training program or short term schooling might be necessary. The Need to Know program on Findlay, Ohio, had it right when one of the commentators suggested that technical training that can and should be provided in high school is more effective in providing employment than is a four year degree. Of course, there are those who think that in order to avoid being “elitist” we must provide a college prep course to all students. People concerned about the drop out rate in high schools ought to consider the possibility that a college prep course does not challenge the abilities and imagination of some students. A student’s value, character, and talents ought not be determined by his/her high school course of study.