Vermont Dairy Workers React To Trump’s Deportation Plans

Dec 2, 2016

Every Sunday an ad hoc group of friends and acquaintances meets to play a game of pick-up soccer… the teams are fluid, and there's no referee, but they play a spirited game, with players shouting in both Spanish and English…

Alfredo is decked out in neon yellow socks and cleats, and his hair pulled back in a small bun…he plays a mean game, fast footwork. To protect his privacy … we’re only using his first name.

“How long have you been in Vermont?”

“Twelve years today.”

“Twelve years? Happy Anniversary…”

“I dunno if it’s happy…”

“Fair enough.”

Alfredo has been working long hours on Vermont dairy farms for over a decade. He says he doesn't follow politics very closely, but still he doesn't expect Trump’s election will change things that much.

He says for years some politicians have been promising to reform immigration policy to keep workers here, while the other side has been making promises to deport people in the country illegally.

“It doesn't matter what trying to do, they trying to legalization, Spanish people, for like 60 years-- trying to deport us since that time too-- and haven't deported anyone-- nothing has changed, so many years from now. Not going to change over day.”

Certainly undocumented immigrants have indeed been deported from Vermont and other states, including many farmworkers…The Department of Homeland Security says 2.5 million since 2009.

But not all the dairy farm workers playing soccer here feel so defiant in facing the very real possibility of deportation.

Gregorio is also originally from Mexico, and he entered the country by walking across the border. He works 11-hour days --6 days a week-- on a dairy farm in Bristol. He says the election of Donald Trump has created a palpable climate of fear (among undocumented workers in Vermont.)

”We're already in danger of being deported because we're illegally here in this country… and already obama deported thousands of illegals… and now, with this govt we're going to have now, now going to be even more, because that's the campaign he ran on, we def live in fear. We could get deported at any minute.”

Gregorio says when he first moved to Vermont 3 years ago, it was peaceful. He felt comfortable leaving the farm where he lives and works-- and going to the grocery store or to the bank. But over the summer he saw three of his friends picked up by immigration authorities.

Gregorio recently sold a car he co-owned with a friend - he feared that merely driving on the roads he’d be at risk of getting pulled over and that immigration would be notified.

“Now I'm only shopping here, at hannafords, I only shop in bristol, and then I quickly return to the farm.”

He has had some interactions already that were blatantly threatening:

“Only one time, I was depositing money in Middlebury-- and the woman working said Trump is president, you’ll no longer be able to send money to Mexico.”

Gregario says he doesn't understand the "hatred" that some people have projected…he says “we’re all humans.”

And he echoes a sentiment that all the dairy workers mentioned:

“If everyone is deported, my question is, who is going to work? We are here, working many hours for little money, and this is what keeps the farms running here in Vermont…”

Gregorio adds that the undocumented status of many farmworkers takes away their voice-- he says no American workers would accept such low wages for working 11-hour days.

Antonio, who works on another dairy in Conwell, Vermont, agrees. He didn't play soccer today, but instead kicked a ball back and forth with Alfredo's two-year old son…

Antonio says he's sure there are some bad people who have crossed into the United States illegally…but he doesn't think planning a mass deportation will solve that problem.

For the New England News Collaborative, I'm Kathleen Masterson.