Fear on the Farm

Migrant labor has long been essential to the dairy farmers in the rolling fields of Western New York. But beyond the usual problems with tractor repairs and feed prices, this season has brought a new worry: the serious threat that farm workers will be deported as part of President Trump’s immigration crackdown. Now, those farmers are arriving at work every day wondering how many of their employees will still be there. Photographs by Craig F. Walker
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A Mexican immigrant named Sergio approaches the heifer farm at CY Farms in Elba, N.Y., on March 6. He’s one of the thousands of farm workers in Western New York who have grown increasingly fearful in the last five months since Donald Trump’s election. Rumors of workers being pulled off of farms or of immigration control officers waiting in Walmart have spread like wildfire. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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A Mexican immigrant worker separates cows for weighing at the heifer farm at CY Farms in Elba, N.Y. Craig Yunker, one of the managing partners of CY Farms, said if the farm lost its Hispanic workforce, revenue would drop by 75 percent. He said his farm will not hire workers without all the proper documents. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Sergio puts on his coveralls in the shop. He is an equipment operator at CY Farms in Elba, N.Y. Sergio has been in the United States for 25 years but still does not have a green card. He said he and his wife once owned their own home, but sold it out of fear of being deported. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Hugo, 22, a Guatemalan immigrant worker spreads lime while preparing fresh bedding for the cows at Stein Family Farms in Caledonia, N.Y. Rich Stein runs the dairy farm, where he employs nine Hispanic workers. Speaking to the importance of these workers he said it’s hard to get Americans to work on the farm, “It’s impossible actually, It’s three times a day. It’s dirty and you almost have to have an aptitude to milk cows and these fellows seem to have that.” As with other farms, he is very clear that all his workers have paperwork and he wouldn’t hire anyone that did not. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Sergio drives a tractor to the garage for servicing at CY Farms in Elba, N.Y. Married and a father of three, Sergio rose from picking cabbage in the field to being one of CY Farms’ most skilled and trusted workers. He says: “Our whole life has been here.” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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A Mexican immigrant worker scrapes manure in the holding area at a dairy farm in Livingston County, N.Y. In a region where agriculture is the driving economic force, farmers are arriving at work everyday wondering how many of their employees will still be there. The problem is two-fold: Americans don’t want to do the work and there’s no year-round guest-worker program that could provide a steady flow of legal workers from outside the United States. The result: Pew Research Center says 26 percent of farm workers are undocumented, but experts say that number climbs to nearly 50 to 75 percent of workers on dairy farms. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Dairy farmer Rich Stein (left) talks with Chris Norton, director of the Geneseo Migrant Center, while one of his immigrant workers has a dental exam at a clinic hosted by the center in Leicester, N.Y. The Geneseo Migrant Center, a nearly 50-year-old establishment, serves migrant farm workers. In addition to medical and dental services, the center offers supplemental educational tutoring to children of migrant workers, reaching more than 1,000 people every year. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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The Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y. The facility is 10 miles from CY Farms, where Sergio works, in Elba. In Buffalo, there has already been increased enforcement activity with officials targeting the “low-hanging fruit,” said Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar, the senior associate for regional outreach at the New York Immigration Coalition. She said law enforcement has picked up undocumented individuals who they’ve had contact with in the past, putting them in deportation proceedings. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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A Mexican immigrant worker milks cows on a rotary milking parlor at a dairy farm in Livingston County, N.Y. In a region where agriculture is the driving economic force, farmers are arriving at work everyday wondering how many of their employees will still be there. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Maria Orozco weeps while talking about her family’s experience coming to America illegally from Mexico in the early ’80s, at the Geneseo Migrant Center in Leicester, N.Y., on March 8. Orozco is now a US citizens and the HEP coordinator for the organization. The center offers supplemental educational tutoring to children of migrant workers, reaching more than 1,000 people every year. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Arnoldo, a Guatemalan immigrant worker, feeds calfs at Stein Family Farms in Caledonia, N.Y. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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A Mexican immigrant sorts onions in a packing facility in Elba, N.Y. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Nancy Rosario sweeps the floor at her family’s market in Orleans County, N.Y. Pinatas hang from the ceiling, colorful boots line the wall, and Spanish delicacies can be found in each aisle. The family has owned the store for nearly 11 years, catering primarily to Hispanic farm workers in the area. As deportation fears mount among those workers, most of whom are likely undocumented, the family has seen a spike in their delivery service. Although the family has always offered to deliver goods to workers on the farms, the service was rarely used. Now, it’s a necessity. “If we didn’t do a delivery service, I would probably have to close my business because I wouldn’t have enough to keep the business,” said Francisco Rosario, the patriarch of the family, who started out as a migrant farm worker. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Workers arrive for a morning meeting at CY Farms in Elba, N.Y. “We’ve tried the local labor office where you go and say we have work and they’ll send somebody out and they’ll try it for an hour, two hours maybe, or they’ll come out and look at the field and look at the job and say ‘I’m not doing this,’ and walk,” Craig Yunker said. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Misael, 27, a Guatemalan immigrant worker, has lunch with his wife, Onelia, and their 18-month-old son, Hinger, at their home on Stein Family Farms in Caledonia, N.Y. Misael originally came to the United States at age 14 but returned to Guatemala where he was married and had a child. He returned in 2015 and was later joined by his family. “I’m afraid because I brought my family here to be together,” he said. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Hinger, 18 months, follows a rooster and soon-to-be dinner, while playing in the garage at his family’s home on Stein Family Farms in Caledonia, N.Y. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Mexican immigrant workers, Sergio (left) and Armando share a laugh in a barn at CY Farms in Elba, N.Y. Sergio obtained a legal work permit and for the past 10 years has had it renewed annually when the paperwork for the permit would arrive in the mail. This year, he hasn’t heard anything and despite repeatedly contacting and visiting immigration officers, he’s still waiting. He worries, “Someday they’ll just show up and say, ‘Hey, it’s time to leave.’ ” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Arnoldo, a Guatemalan immigrant worker, feeds calfs in the freshening barn at Stein Family Farms in Caledonia, N.Y. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Arnoldo cares for a newborn calf in the freshening barn at Stein Family Farms in Caledonia, N.Y. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Edgar, a Guatemalan immigrant worker, waits for a dental exam at a clinic hosted by the Geneseo Migrant Center in Leicester, N.Y. “I am scared because you hear and see on the news that immigration officers are taking people,” Edgar, a 20-year-old dairy worker, said in Spanish as he waited for his appointment. “In my country, there’s no work and there’s no money.” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Bryan, 7, celebrates his victory in a math game while doing his homework with his father, Sergio, at their home in Byron, N.Y. They have three children, all American citizens, “I don’t want to take my family to Mexico; they deserve a better life.” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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Craig Yunker, one of the managing partners of CY Farmsworks, works at his desk in Elba, N.Y. Yunker was the highest elected legislator in Genesee County in the late ’80s, and in 1986, he unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for the congressional seat. But when he went into the voting booth this year, he left the top line empty. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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A Mexican immigrant works in the feed lot at a farm in Genesee County, N.Y. The worker, who has been deported twice after being caught at the border, said he keeps coming back to the United States because he is married to an American citizen and Mexico is too dangerous. “I learn a lot of stuff here,” he said. “I love this job.” He said he tried to become a citizen, but the lawyer he paid to help him through the process took his money and then stopped answering his calls. Now, with the increase in enforcement activity, he’s become more watchful. “Every time I go to the store, I look first for the police. If I see something, I don’t go in there,” he said. “I stay out of trouble.” (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)
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