May 27, 2011

Immigration Reality: Aware of Its Dependence, Napa Takes Care of Migrant Workers

Nappa Valley, California, knows which side its bread is buttered on; actually, who fills its wine kegs.

Aware of Its Dependence, Napa Takes Care of Migrant Workers - "Nearly every drop of Napa County’s world-class wine is produced by migrant labor.

This time of year, that means the workers are suckering vines — pulling off, by hand, tiny sprouts that might hinder the growth of healthy grapes.

Just as painstakingly, civic and business leaders in the county have been working on another key element of the harvest: cultivating their own immigration policy. ...

The effort was born of compassion and practicality. Without migrant labor, most of it from Mexico, the wine producers in Napa would be hard pressed to fill a carafe, much less the valley’s nine million annual cases. ..

Experts estimate that 8,000 to 12,000 illegal migrants reside (often seasonally) in Napa, although the number is impossible to confirm. Ten years ago, they could be found living in the woods in makeshift camps, sleeping on fetid mattresses and drinking from dirty streams. Today they receive subsidized housing, or can reside in three tidy dormitory complexes near St. Helena and Yountville where up to 180 workers pay $12 a day for room and board....

There is no federal financing for thumbing one’s nose at Washington policy, so Napa pays for its own efforts.

Vineyard owners pay an assessment of $10 per acre to help house and feed migrant fieldworkers, a program that costs more than $1 million a year. Financing and donations, including food, also come from county and municipal governments, churches, businesses, charities and concerned citizens — all contributing to a larger safety net that includes health care and job placement."

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