OGDEN — Piles of free sunglasses for migrant farm workers sat on a table with few takers. So did neat piles of donated work pants, shirts and boots scattered on the park lawn.
A barbecue for 150 people was ready, but only 45 people were there to eat it Thursday night.
Carrie Hout, who organizes appreciation events for migrant workers around the state, says that is a sign of just how scared Latinos are after news stories have surfaced about the list of 1,300 supposedly "illegal immigrants" spread by an anonymous, vigilante-like group.
"Two weeks ago we had an event in Payson where we had 247 people," she said, looking at the small group of just 45 on Thursday that was nearly outnumbered by volunteers. "The difference is the news about 'the list' this week. This has really scared people."
She said Hispanic migrant workers — some of whom are illegal immigrants, but many have temporary guest worker visas or are permanent legal residents — "have been scared for years already. It only gets worse and worse over time, and now this really hurts. And they don't rebound."
Hilda Lloyd, another volunteer with the Utah Migrant Seasonal Farmworker Coalition, said workers seem scared to go anywhere where names might be taken. She says they now aren't answering their doors when volunteers drop by to offer help. Many are too scared to take family members for medical care.
Randy Parker, executive director of the Utah Farm Bureau Federation, worries "the list" might even scare needed migrant workers right out of the state and make it difficult for farmers here to harvest and care for crops.
"We're concerned because it moves our potential workers harvesting fruits and vegetables further underground and in the shadow," he said.
Parker said delays with the H2A temporary visa program for guest workers have already been causing problems — which could be made worse by the list spooking other migrant workers.
"One rancher, while awaiting his longtime help from Peru — two herders — lost 300 lambs during lambing. This (H2A) delay is creating problems across the state," Parker said. Also, he said other farmers decided to switch from vegetables that must be picked by hand to hay and grain that are mechanically harvested to avoid migrant labor.
He said all that shows that "we need a guest-worker program that allows workers to legally enter the U.S. then return to their home country."
Meanwhile, Hout looked at the unused piles of donated items and talked about how it could have helped more workers.
"Most only have one set of clothes. And the pesticides from the fields build up in them, and some even sleep in them," she said. The extra clothes there could help them wash clothes more often to prevent problems. She said many have cataracts from not using sunglasses, as she thumbed through a pile of them that had been donated.
April and Angelique Lara, sisters who are farmworkers, sat on the grass explaining what their life is like as their young children played a beanbag toss game with volunteers.
"We work 10 hours a day, from Monday to Saturday," Angelique said. "We take home about $375 a week." That works out to about $6.25 an hour. (Minimum wage for most jobs is $7.25 an hour.) The sisters add that they have to save most of the money they earn during the summer to last all year to go with other small jobs they may find in the offseason.90 comments on this story
April said they get up about 5:30 in the morning and put their children on a bus to a school in Brigham City for migrant workers' children. "That school has really helped us," she said.
Angelique, who just began working full time in the fields this summer said, "It's hard work. It's not too bad, but what really gets me is the heat."
As they looked at the food prepared for 150, with only a few dozen workers there to eat it, Angelique said, "At least it looks like we're going to party hearty tonight."