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Briefing #5: Legal Issues Facing Immigrant Dairy Workers in Wisconsin
Miscellaneous Publications No. , July 2009
by Jill Harrison, Sarah Lloyd and Trish O'Kane

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This research project pays special attention to the important role that Latino immigrants now play in Wisconsin's dairy industry. In this report, we elaborate on a prominent but largely unexamined theme that arose throughout the first four reports in this series: the legal status issues facing many immigrant dairy farm workers and their families. Though immigration policies and enforcement practices also create difficulties for farmers who employ immigrant labor, this document focuses on the ways that these issues shape the lives of immigrants. In our interviews with immigrant workers, they elaborated at length how a persistent sense of surveillance and fear of apprehension ends up shaping their experiences at work and elsewhere, as well as the experiences of their family members and friends. We contend that these findings suggest that recent changes in immigration enforcement, including the increase in workplace raids, ultimately serve to deepen immigrant workers' vulnerabilities. Current immigration policies and the associated enforcement practices reinforce language barriers and limit immigrants' abilities to pursue their claims and seek legal protections, thus contributing to inequalities in the workplace and problems with integrating into communities.

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