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Kids@Work

MIGRANT PICKER, USA, 2001

I am Miguel.

For a person to pick a fruit or vegetable is not too hard, you would think. Almost everyone has done that. But to pick them all day in the hot sun, or to dig them from the dirt or mud, is not so easy.

To bend over and tie a shoe is not so hard. But to bend over for many hours, the whole long day, is to ache into sleep.

Almost everyone has been bit or stung by an insect, then killed it or run away. In the fields and orchards, there are too many to swat, and there is nowhere to hide. In orchards, bees and yellowjackets are drawn to the sweet fruit. We must gather the fruit, and the insects do not like us. I have been stung many times.

To keep some insects away (mostly those who hurt the plants, not those who hurt us), the owners spray the crops with pesticides. A small amount may not hurt a human being, but we are with those chemicals all day, and every day. Some pickers, especially kids, get sick. Some develop breathing problems. The skin and nose can itch and burn.

We are often not welcomed by people who live here. Some people think we all came here without permission from the government. Many of us have permission, but some do not, because it was hard to get. Either way, we work because someone offered to pay us for our time.

If our family could work and live at home, we would. This is not easy work, and it is not an easy life. I don't know why there is no work at home. The Earth there is much the same, and we would work just as hard. It would at least be better if we lived where others did not look down on us.

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