Migrant workers are more likely to get injured or even die while on the job than nonmigrant workers, experts said Tuesday evening at UC Merced.
Marc Schenker, professor of medicine and public health at the UC Davis School of Medicine, and Dr. Xochitl Castaneda, director of Health Initiative of the Americas at the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley, spoke about the issue during an event sponsored by the UC Merced Center of Excellence on Health Disparities.
The lecture, which was open to the community, addressed occupational injuries and illnesses of global migrants, with a particular focus on the disparities in these outcomes from nonmigrant workers.
There are many reasons that contribute to the disparities, such as migrant workers taking more hazardous jobs, their recent arrival, the linguistic and cultural barriers, and the precarious work. For example, Schenker said, "not being able to complain, not being able to say anything."
He talked about the case of a 17-year-old migrant worker near Stockton who died of heat stroke in 2008. Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez wasn't feeling well, she complained to her manager and was asked to return to work.
She died three days later. When she was finally taken to a hospital it was too late -- her body temperature was 105 degrees.
Schenker said the fatality rate at that temperature is 50 percent. That was a result of being exposed to the sun for more than nine hours.
"This is a preventable cause of death," Schenker said, adding that the girl's vulnerability and inability to complain beyond her field supervisor played a role in her death.
Castaneda said the lack of information -- the difficulty navigating the government safety net for workers -- puts these workers in a more vulnerable situation.
Of the jobs that migrants tend to work, farming, construction and transportation have the highest rates for occupational fatalities. "If you are a roofer and you are Hispanic, you are twice as likely for an occupational death," Schenker said.
Castaneda said the "Golden State would not be so golden without the valuable contributions" of migrant workers. She said this country needs to begin to dignify them.
"I think in these days we need to rehumanize migration," she said.
She said it is anticipated that by 2040, one out of three U.S. residents will be of Latino ancestry.
Schenker said there's a lot of false information regarding immigrants, such as them being the cause of higher crime in certain areas and that needs to change. "We are a country of immigrants," he said. "We need to change this perception that's demeaning immigrants."
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 388-6507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.