Local News

Many Migrants Trapped by Floyd

Posted September 25, 1999

— Hispanic farmworkers were hit especially hard by Hurricane Floyd. They have lost the one thing that lured them to eastern North Carolina -- jobs. And now, without paychecks, they can't afford to stay here -- but they can't afford to move on, either.

At a farm festival to honor them, migrant workers discussed their situation.

There's been a lack of information printed or broadcast in Spanish, so many of them are unaware they can apply for help, or that recovery centers are open to everyone who needs help.

Many of the workers don't have Social Security cards, or they distrust governmental agencies. They are desperate not to be deported, with their families back home needing their income.

Pascual Martinez lost his job on a tobacco farm. He said the prospect for a job is not good, especially since he does not speak English.

Keith Merritt, an activist on behalf of Hispanics, says some workers have been left with no money, food or water.

"It's ironic," Merritt said. "Our economy absolutely needs them."

Although the harvest season in eastern North Carolina would have been winding down in a few weeks anyhow, many of the workers have so little money they cannot travel to farms in other states -- and they don't have subsistence money to stay, either.

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