Eva Longoria is fighting to increase age of children in the fields

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Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:56 am Post subject: Eva Longoria is fighting to increase age of children in the fields
Eva Longoria, star of Desperate Housewives, has recently taking on the cause of helping migrant children. She has gone to Capitol Hill to advocate new regulations raising the minimum age of farm workers and is in the midst of creating a film that exposes the "dangerous and harsh" conditions faced by migrant children in America. It’s great that Ms. Longoria and others are taking on a project that exposes the plight of the American farm worker. From the age of 5 until the age of 19, I worked the fields of California and Oregon alongside my parents. I harvested peaches, olives, walnuts, almonds, cherries, prunes, and performed numerous other related tasks, often from sunrise to sunset. So I speak with some personal experience when I offer Ms. Longoria a word of caution: Improving the lives of migrant children isn’t as simple as keeping them out of the fields.

While forcing children to stay home while their parents work the fields may make for great headlines, the end result will be fewer opportunities and increased risks for those Ms. Longoria is trying to protect.. It is important to remember that most farm workers make less than $8/hour. There is no excess cash to pay for regular day-care or alternatives for their children. As a result, children who can’t work will stay home alone. In the best case, this will result in considerable business for xBoxLive, but more commonly, it will leave children more idle hours away from the oversight of their parents. Even if affordable child care options are available, most of the farm working families I know travel to multiple locations for the harvest, which will mean that mothers and fathers will be separated from their children for extended periods of time (will this be good for building family values?). Like it or not, child workers are often a material source of family income; if the children do not work, the parents will only be further impoverished. The theory that employers will pay higher wages to compensate for the loss of income is a fantasy.

I will say that adults that I know who grew up like me working 12 hour days, under 100 degree temperatures, and amidst “dangerous conditions”, have leveraged that work ethic to be successful in America. Yes, we missed a lot of regular school days and did not have optimal learning conditions; but this enabled us to learn other life skills, including the ability to self-teach and the often-missed lesson that the harder one works, the more one will achieve. I was able to transform my abilities to harvest buckets of cherries into an MBA from Harvard Business School and a partnership in an investment firm – I am not a smart guy, but the ability to work hard over extended periods of time, and fight for success against long odds came in handy in all sorts of scenarios.

Migrant children do need help. The deck is stacked against them. But the way forward is not to take them out of the fields and leave them at home alone. They need educational support like that provided by the Office of Migrant Education, which provides resources to sons and daughters of migrant farm workers during the K-12 years. Migrant children also need to be empowered to convert their extraordinary work ethic to help themselves out of the fields and, like other immigrants to this country, achieve the American dream of having a more stable and prosperous life than that of their parents. I am doing my part through a non-profit foundation I co-founded called The Rising Farmworker Dream Fund (RFDF), which is improving the lives of migrant students by promoting financial literacy, entrepreneurship, management, and other related business careers.

If it were not for the child labor laws that allowed my parents to take me to work at an early age, my American dream would not be a reality. Ms. Longoria: be careful what you wish for.
Signature Martin Curiel, CFA, MBA
Co-founder, The Rising Farmworker Dream Fund (RFDF)
http://twitter.com/#!/rfdf_chairman
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Posted: Wed Jul 13, 2011 07:05 am
You highlight a common error that we frequently see from celebrity activists and many politicians. A failure to critically think and to recognize secondary and tertiary outcomes that often result in numerous unintended consequences is a big problem and often result in outcomes that are far worse than the initial problem. I suspect your concerns about unsupervised children are legitimate and would expect their actions to evolve into far more nefarious outcomes beyond playing video games and watching tv. Latch key kids (the inner city version of what Ms. Longoria is proposing we legislate for farmworking children) have a variety off social issues that result in their inability to reach their potential or even be productive members of society.

Much like Bono's efforts to eradicate AIDs (which distracts our attention and resources from the much more troublesome problem of malaria), I suspect that Mrs. Longoria's efforts here will distract us from a more troublesome issue, resolving our country's conflicted, outdated and immoral immigration policy. Her efforts would likely result in more govt. spending in the hispanic community, less familial cohesiveness (out of wedlock births) and higher crime rates. All of which would embolden opponents of immigration reform and further cloud the value immigrants provide to this country.

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Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2011 09:49 am
Martin and Erik,

I too agree that the problem does not exist in getting migrant children out of the fields rather what other resources we could provide to help them out of the fields. I did honor the fact that I believe CNN did a documentary on the experience of child labor which put farmworkers a face in our nation but failed to recognize the virtue behind why parents take their kids along with them while working.


I really enjoyed both your perspectives. More should be invested in educational programs such as CAMP and other resources to help migrants out of the fields and becoming more educated.

Thanks.
Signature Suerte,

Andie Lee Gonzalez,MPH, RDN


“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community... Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” Cesar E. Chavez
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Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 01:19 pm
Reply to post by Andie Gonzalez
This is a very interesting topic given that it highlights something common in American politics and grassroots activism: How to get the right policies in place without further hindering a community in the long run. While I do agree with both Erik and Martin, I will not be as critical of Ms. Longoria. Even though I concur that her push for eradicating child farmworker labor will definitely have negative unintended consequences, I also applaud her for her efforts. She simply lacks perspective about the overall issue of farmwork and the lives of farmworkers.

This specific issue is similar to that of giving farmworkers in California overtime pay. Currently, agricultural workers are eligible to receive overtime pay after 60 hours of work a week compared to most workers in other industries who get overtime pay after 40 hours. Last summer former Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have given farmworkers overtime pay after 40 hours. I was critical of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s action until I spoke to my uncle Chuy, who still labors the fields of the Central Valley. My uncle explained to me that it was not convenient for him or his family to get overtime pay after 40 hours. His reason was clear and logical: a crew leader would simply not allow him to work past 40 hours a week if such overtime law was implemented. Rather than paying my uncle overtime, he would pay someone else to work part-time. My uncle currently works 55-60 hours a week in the fields and makes minimum wage—the law would have cut his weekly hours by 15-20 hours; this would be a huge loss of income for him and his family.

Anyhow, back to the main topic at hand. While Ms. Longoria lacks a holistic perspective on this issue, this is where individuals like us come in to play so that we can educate activists like her. Furthermore, I don’t quite agree that Ms. Longoria’s efforts will lead to “out of wedlock births,” higher crime rates, or wasteful government spending because there is no verifiable data to show this. On the other hand, government spending in the form of bigger monetary grants to Migrant Education Programs, as Martin stated, would help offset some of the societal risks migrant children face on a daily basis. Government spending isn’t always a bad idea, sometimes it’s an investment. Lastly, Erik is correct in that we need to focus on comprehensive immigration reform rather than piece mail issues. By fixing our larger immigration problems, we will be able to solve internal issues related to immigration—like child labor in the fields.
Signature Jose J. Franco
MBA Candidate, Class of 2016
Georgetown University | McDonough School of Business
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Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 01:50 pm
Jose,

There is nothing wrong with being critical. In fact, not being critical and allowing wrong headed policy to be implemented because the intentions are there (even if the results are not) is more harmful than the original "perpetrator." It has been said that all evil needs to exist is for good men to do nothing. And while Ms. Longoria's actions clearly aren't evil, the results are equally menacing. As you rightly point out, it is our job to critique her and educate her.

The data does prove that latch key kids have a multitude of societal problems that their non-latch key kids don't have. Idle hands are the devil's playground and all that jazz....
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Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 02:14 pm
Reply to post by Erik Chavez
My apologies if my comments were nebulous. I intended to say that we must be critical, but also understand her perspective. There is a way to marry human rights and capitalism, but we have to get everyone at the table. Also, if such labor laws were to be implemented then we might be able to offset some of the unintended consequences by investing in programs like Migrant Education.
Signature Jose J. Franco
MBA Candidate, Class of 2016
Georgetown University | McDonough School of Business
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Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 04:10 pm
stacking policy isn't the best idea. It not only results in unintended consequences but also, it creates a situation where cause and effect are decoupled so significantly that we can't even determine what is truly creating the issue. And while we might say that we will monitor it, eventually we will die and the message will be lost. Sort of like our current trend in obesity, which is being attributed to all kinds of sources and there are a variety of solutions. Unfortunately, the solutions don't really address causal factors but rather hope to patch the wound with the blunt knife that is economic policy. Farmers are subsidezed to crow corn, corn goes into corn syrup and then into soda. Other filler materials are also subsidized and go into processed food. Both soda and processed food (along with laziness) are subsidized and result in obesity. So it would at the very least make more sense to eliminate the subsidies before we institute new taxes.
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Posted: Mon Aug 15, 2011 04:11 pm
stacking policy isn't the best idea. It not only results in unintended consequences but also, it creates a situation where cause and effect are decoupled so significantly that we can't even determine what is truly creating the issue. And while we might say that we will monitor it, eventually we will die and the message will be lost. Sort of like our current trend in obesity, which is being attributed to all kinds of sources and there are a variety of solutions. Unfortunately, the solutions don't really address causal factors but rather hope to patch the wound with the blunt knife that is economic policy. Farmers are subsidezed to crow corn, corn goes into corn syrup and then into soda. Other filler materials are also subsidized and go into processed food. Both soda and processed food (along with laziness) are subsidized and result in obesity. So it would at the very least make more sense to eliminate the subsidies before we institute new taxes.
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