From LENConnect.com, David Frownfelder, Daily Telegram, 23 Nov 2011.
BLISSFIELD, Mich. — Emily Martinez still considers herself a migrant farm worker. She moved to Lenawee County with her family for good in the 1940s and started working at 9, then later became an advocate for the workers.
“When migrant workers are here, this is their second home, and anything we can do to help them is good,” Martinez said.
Martinez, 72, received a lifetime advocate award on Friday from the Interagency Migrant Services Committee at the 2011 Conference for Michigan’s Farmworkers, Service Providers and Growers. The award is presented by the Office of Migrant Affairs (OMA) of the Michigan the Department of Human Services to a person who has dedicated significant time and passion for the advancement of services to farmworkers.
“I do it to show people that we need volunteers,” Martinez said. “Others can follow and do what they can to make things better.”
Though she retired in July 2010 from the Lenawee Intermediate School District, Martinez continues to volunteer her services as a consultant on multicultural programs and services in Lenawee County. She was honored by the OMA for her many years of helping the seasonal and migrant workers receive the services they need while working in Lenawee County. Those services include basic medical and dental care, education services for children, daycare services, and help with legal issues.
Martinez said it is becoming harder for migrant workers to come north for work. The immigration laws have slowed the flow of workers from Texas and Mexico, even people born in the United States are facing close scrutiny, Martinez said.
Once the workers get to Lenawee County, she said, they work hard and are treated well.
“The farmers here in Lenawee County have been very good to us,” Martinez said. “They do the best they can to make conditions good for the workers.”
The OMA is under the auspices of the Department of Human Services. It advocates on behalf of the 45,800 seasonal workers who come to Michigan to help collect the harvest each year. Michigan has the sixth-largest migrant worker population in the United States.