Vermonters Grieve “Invisible Life and Death” of Migrant Farm Worker Killed in Farming Accident

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Candle Light Vigil remembers and mourns “Invisible Life and Death” of Oveth Santis Cruz and calls for Immediate Immigrant Rights in Vermont.

On December 22, 2009 on a bone chilling winter afternoon in Fairfield, Vermont on Howrigan dairy farm 17 year old Oveth Santis Cruz from the town of Las Margaritas, Chiapas, Mexico was killed in a tragic farming accident. The death was confirmed by his co-workers and family members last night as concern and sadness spread throughout the migrant farm worker community mourning the young migrant farm workers’ death. Oveth is survived by roughly 80 extended family and community members who currently live and work on Vermont dairy farms.

Although, Oveth Santis Cruz’s family members might like to gather together as a family and community here in Vermont to mourn this tragic death they expressed fears that doing so would mean risking deportation—they are not free to do so. As Vermont resident Brendan O’Neill, a family friend, migrant farm worker advocate, ESL teacher, and member of the VT Workers’ Center, who was in touch last night with relatives who survive Oveth, commented, “Sadly, here in Vermont and throughout the United States migrant farm workers cannot even gather as a community and mourn family members deaths without fearing deportation.

Family members have expressed concern to ensure that Oveth’s body is respectfully and swiftly returned to his family in Chiapas, Mexico.” 

Today, Wednesday December 23, 2009 Vermonters are invited to gather for a silent and solemn candle light vigil organized by O’Neill and hosted by the Vermont Workers’ Center that will begin at 5 p.m at 294 N. Winooski Avenue in Burlington at the Vermont Workers Center to honor the hard work, sacrifice and tragic death of migrant farm worker Oveth Santis Cruz.

The candlelight vigil procession will leave from the VT Workers’ Center at 6pm and make its way through the streets of Burlington to continue the vigil in front of the UU Church on Church St. O’Neill adds, “Oveth Santis Cruz is one of approximately 2,000 migrant farm workers who have come to the aid of our Vermont Dairy Farms in crisis and yet despite their essential contributions to Vermont due to an unjust, broken and oppressive U.S. immigration system they are forced to live and in this case die in fear, silence and in the shadows.” He added, “In the state of Vermont and throughout the United States the invisible hands that milk so many of our cows and pick so many of our vegetables, which literally puts the food on the table, live and die invisibly without the dignity and respect that all human beings deserve.”

The vigil is dedicated to the life of Oveth Santis Cruz and calls upon Vermonters to commit themselves to work for real immigration reform that recognizes and respects the basic needs, dignity and human rights of all immigrants.

9 thoughts on “Vermonters Grieve “Invisible Life and Death” of Migrant Farm Worker Killed in Farming Accident

  1. I’ve been working all day and only read about it when I picked-up the Messenger.  At that time nothing had been posted on GMD, so I tried to grab a moment to get something up to let folks know about the vigil.  Sorry I didn’t check again before launching my new diary on the subject.  I didn’t mean to step on anyone’s toes; just wanted to be sure the message got out there.

    Seventeen years old!  He was just a child doing a man’s job in a strange, bitterly cold country with no protection whatsoever.  I know its not slavery, but sometimes it comes dangerously close to deserving that name.  

  2. Regardless of the Federal legality, I’d like to see some brave soul(s) in the VT Legislature or some of the candidates for Governor come out with a proposal/bill to ease the plight of migrant workers on VT’s dairy farms.  Seems everyone from Canaan to Bennington is a champion of Vermont’s dairy industry, yet few (very, very few) are willing to admit/talk about the fact that the only real way that many (most?) of our dairy farms can survive is through the employment of illegal migrant labor.

    We just can’t have it both ways folks.

    And though I’m not a religious man, I’ll also add that, at this time of year especially, it’s seems a telling and tragic horror that because of possible ‘illegal’ status this young man’s family and friends aren’t even able to come together to mourn and grieve the loss of his life.

    Happy holidays, my condolences, and good luck to Oveth Santis Cruz’s family and friends- as well as the thousands of other Vermonters and millions of other Americans in the same horrific circumstance.

    And a big ol’ lump of coal to all of you who for racist, selfish, or economic reasons fight against the basic human rights of migrant peoples everywhere.

  3. when Bob Kiss proposed making Burlington a sanctuary city for immigrants?

    Seems lately this topic has floated to the the top of Vermont’s political discussion what with the recent ICE raids and the plaints of our state’s dairy farmers and now this.

    Perhaps a revisiting of that issue won’t run into the brick wall it did when Kiss originally brought it up.

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