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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Scribe for Human Rights Fellow Works to Support Local Latinx Immigrants

Roy Guzman, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Minnesota, received the Scribe for Human Rights Fellowship this past summer. Working with Centro Campesino, a Southern Minnesota based nonprofit seeking to provide care and resources along with adequate housing for migrant farm workers, Roy examined the struggles of the working class in America and how Latinx immigrants are particularly affected.

Roy ran a series of interviews during his fellowship, attempting to uncover the reasoning beyond the heightened disenfranchisement of these workers. Through these interviews he found the many systemic issues these communities face—landlords taking advantage of their tenants, issues of wage theft, minimal access to hot water, to name a few. These violations are all representative of those benefiting from individuals who have found themselves in the predicament of migration as their last gamble at survival, “While thousands see farm work as a viable opportunity to support their families, they are unacquainted with the cruel systems that await them.”

Reflecting on his experience, Roy notes the harsh reality of the seemingly “lighter” injustices in the world that often go unnoticed and remain unquestioned, gradually turning systemic. In a recent talk at the interdisciplinary conference, “Local Actions in Response to Migration” at the University of Minnesota, he posed, “I wrestled with this conventional—and I would argue, misguided notion—that a person's human rights can only be breached in the most heinous way. What I learned through the people I interviewed is that human rights violations in the United States occur every day, but we lack the language, and often the courage, to call them human rights violations. We forget our roles as witnesses.”

While impossible to articulate every angle, every nuance, every sense of avoidance or gravitation towards him during his interviews, Roy spoke of of the challenges in translating others’ oppression through their language, knowledge, and in a way, through their heightened fear and hesitation to be wholly honest with their experiences.

Furthermore, Roy spent his summer examining the systemic causes relating to language fluency, inadequate health care, low-to-below poverty wages, and general lack of access and assistance. However, the systemic issues go far beyond mistreatment in the workplace. Roy spoke of the lack of representation in state and local politics, the parallels of immigrants being misinformed and misguided with whom and what to vote for, and the problematic nature of the most vulnerable communities viewing every issue through the eyes of those who have oppressed them. This problematic foundation excludes marginalized communities out of the major conversations happening in this country.

While Roy saw this fellowship as an opportunity to raise awareness for the unfair treatment of migrant farm workers, he plans to expand his work by transforming his findings into his first poetry manuscript. He also wants to get this work published and share with others how difficult it becomes for citizens to participate in the American notion of democracy.

-Written by Trish Palermo