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Young farmworkers, students ask North Carolina senators to oppose ICE cooperation bill

Interns with the Into the Fields program pose for a selfie outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh.
Kayla Young
WFAE/La Noticia
Interns with the Into the Fields program pose for a selfie outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

Twenty-five college students, largely from farmworker backgrounds, met with senators at the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday. One of their top priorities was pushing lawmakers to oppose HB10, a bill that would obligate sheriffs to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

José Velásquez grew up harvesting tobacco with his family in eastern North Carolina. Now, he’s one of the student interns with Into the Fields, a leadership program by Student Action with Farmworkers.

On Wednesday, he joined other interns and members of El Pueblo, Inc. in Raleigh. They hoped to sit down with state senators and discuss HB10, which they fear would encourage racial profiling of Latinos.

“Our goal is just to change their minds maybe [and] bring a different, new perspective that they haven’t heard. That’s really all we can do since we’re not in office,” he said.

Program coordinator Anna Jensen says lobbying is only one subject that interns learn about during the eight-week summer program. Students are selected from across the country. Then they’re placed with organizations in North and South Carolina that provide services like health care and legal aid to farmworkers.

“More than half of the students are from farmworker families as well. So we're trying to build farmworker leadership and bring students and farmworkers together to learn about each other's lives,” she said.

If HB10 becomes law, Jensen worries the state will experience an exodus of agricultural workers. She says many of the student interns have already faced similar conditions in other states, like Georgia and Florida, and don’t want to see mandatory ICE cooperation in North Carolina.

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Kayla Young is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race, equity, and immigration for WFAE and La Noticia, an independent Spanish-language news organization based in Charlotte. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.
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