Catastrophic Calif. Flood Plunged Marginalized Farmworkers Into Crisis

"Cascading climate disasters and unjust labor and immigration policies leave undocumented farm laborers without a safety net."

"PAJARO, Calif.— It was half past midnight on March 11 when a cacophony of sirens and shouting jolted Emilio Vasquez and his family from a sound sleep. “Get out of your houses immediately!” a voice barked in Spanish through a bullhorn. “The water is coming!”

Vasquez and his wife, undocumented Indigenous Mexican immigrants who speak Mixteco, understood just enough Spanish to bolt out of bed, grab their two young children and race to their car. They headed south out of town, wondering why water was threatening their rental in Pajaro, an impoverished, unincorporated farmworker community, about 95 miles south of San Francisco, that helps power Monterey County’s $4 billion agriculture industry.

Vasquez, who asked not to use his real name for fear of retaliation, did not learn until the next morning that the storm-swollen Pajaro River—which forms the border between Monterey and Santa Cruz County to the north—had demolished a section of the levee on its long-neglected southern side. The levee’s deficiency was clear soon after it was built in 1949. It failed twice in the fifties, prompting Congress to authorize millions to fix it, then again several times in the 1990s, when a catastrophic flood killed two."

Liza Gross reports for Inside Climate News July 23, 2023.

Source: Inside Climate News, 07/24/2023