West Bay Rotary - February 2, 2017
Immigrants & Farmworkers in Downeast Maine
Mano en Mano
Ian Yaffe – Director
Founded in 2005 in Milbridge, ME
Goals from Mano en Mano's 2017-2020 Strategic Plan:
Support immigration in Downeast Maine.
Ensure access to language services and increase affordable housing.
Increase educational and economic opportunity.
Foster community leadership, social justice, and equity.
Build organizational and financial capacity to achieve Mano en Mano’s goals
Mano en Mano serves the communities of Milbridge and greater Washington County including this residential population of former migrant farmworkers and their families.
Seasonally - workers enter the community to do the following agricultural work.
4% Native American
Consider this community to be their permanent home.
45% from Mexico
43% from the US
$15-25,000 – household income bracket – live at or below the poverty line.
Has been solid economic growth in the last 5 years
Starting in the early 1990’s the town of Milbridge experienced a rapid influx of migrant farmworkers who decided to leave the “migrant stream” and settle in Downeast Maine. For many families, a lack of available and affordable housing limits one's ability to put down roots in the area. Mano en Mano worked to build Hand in Hand Apartments to address this need.
Provide access to essential services
Referrals to other organizations – food pantries, etc.
Do not provide direct assistance beyond the housing assistance.
We match folks with the systems & services that exist.
2 barriers – language barriers & cultural barrier
Access to essential services was not enough on its own
Voice in the community
Maine Department of Ed
Migrant education statewide
300 migrant children statewide
Provide support & instructional services
Increases significantly in the summer – during the blueberry harvest
Some national data on the role immigrants in the community – there wasn’t anything specific to rural Maine. They partnered with Colby to design & develop and econ impact study – collected over 255 data points from over 80 households. Colby is crunching the data
Direct & econ impact & direct jobs supported.
How do you multiply this data out to some representative samples.
1.5 million in direct & indirect econ activity
There isn’t a solution to the workforce issue in Maine
Maine is not a destination state from people moving within the US
Immigrants may be the only answer for rural Maine
Important piece of our economic strategy.
Are there groups around here that you help?
Some of the blueberry workers here in the Midcoast
Also work with the state on the migrant education – have to be under 22
There’s no easy transition from a temporary visa to a more permanent status
Has the move toward mechanical harvesting
Piece rate went up recently – increased pay because hand crews in very difficult terrain.
Don’t have the opportunity to gather as many boxes
550-750 here for the blueberry harvest
How many new immigrants are you seeing per year?
A couple of families per year – not something where there is a lot of fluctuation in/out
Finding a way to help people transition into housing is pretty difficult
What are the families telling you?
What’s the attraction? How can we leverage
Economic opportunity – not just Mexico
Like that it’s a small town, its safe, schools good & the community is welcoming and there are services available. There is an anchor employer – seafood processing
How much integration is there with the community?
Schools are 25-30% latino
How did the community respond to the influx in immigrants?
The town was pretty proactive about it. The community needed to figure out how to communicate with each other. A lot of benefit for the community to having stable population. Overall it has been a pretty welcoming community.
Buckets on the table
Ken will decide who the money goes to
We need parking assistance
Chili – 7 chili vendors – would like 1 more
Upstairs at Seadog
Sponsorships – could use 2-3 more
$50 or $100