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Delta Smelt & Undocumented Farm Workers: How Federal Policy Is Failing CA's Central Valley

California's Central Valley is a 450 mile long stretch of flat and fertile land that produces much of the food that we enjoy every day. But the people in small towns like Mendota (the cantaloupe capital of the world) are suffering these days, in part due to two federal policies.

In order to protect a threatened fish species called the Delta Smelt, much of the water that used to be pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to farms on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley is now allowed to flow into the ocean. The result is predictable: hundreds of thousands of acres of farm land lies fallow and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost. In Mendota, the unemployment rate is over 40% and food lines are the norm.

But people going hungry in a region dominated by agriculture is only one of the contradictions in the Central Valley.

Nearly all the valley's farm workers are immigrants from Mexico and Central America, and many of them are undocumented. These people are crucial to the valley's economy, but they're breaking the law according to the federal government.

To learn more about the Central Valley and its discontents, we spoke to Robert Silva, mayor of Mendota; Kim Sullivan, a small business owner who makes gear drives for irrigation pumps; Maria Angel, a cafe owner and GED instructor; and Chris Collins, who recently authored a special Fresno Bee series about illegal immigration called "In Denial".
Approximately 8 minutes. Produced by Paul Feine and Alex Manning.

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