Historical and Contemporary Factors Contributing to the Plight of Migrant Farmworkers in the United States


  • Safina Koreishi Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Rosewood, OR
  • Martin Thomas Donohoe Portland State University


immigrants, migrant farm workers, human rights, health policy, social justice


Abstract: Migrant farmworkers provide an essential service and perform jobs that many Americans are unwilling to do. Immigration practices and policies dictate the extent to which undocumented migrant farmworkers have access to governmental health and social services, and are ever-changing based on the political climate. This paper reviews historical and contemporary United States government policies relevant to migrant farmworkers. It refutes some of the common myths regarding documented and undocumented immigrants and migrant farmworkers, such as "U.S. public health insurance programs are overburdened with immigrants," "undocumented immigrants are taking advantage of the American system by 'free riding' and are a 'drain on the economy,'" and "undocumented immigrants take American jobs." Even though their jobs involve significant occupational hazards, undocumented migrant farmworkers are ineligible for government services, and employers generally do not provide these workers with health insurance. Migrant farmworkers also face food insecurity, poor housing conditions, impaired access to education for their children, and even human rights violations. These conditions, as well as the nature of their work, affect the health of undocumented migrant farmworkers and their children. This paper analyzes these inequities and calls for a more just and equitable system that treats migrant farmworkers fairly and provides them and their families with social services and health care.

Author Biographies

Safina Koreishi, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Rosewood, OR

MD, MPH, Staff Physician, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Rosewood Family Health Center, Rosewood, OR

Martin Thomas Donohoe, Portland State University

Adjunct Lecturer, Community Health, Portland State University Member, Board of Directors, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility (OR PSR) and Chief Science Advisor, OR PSR Campaign for Safe Foods Internal Medicine, Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center






Themes and Debates