Updated 07/30/2012 06:58 PM
Fatal crash involved illegal farm workers
The man police say was drunk and speeding when he crashed a truck in Jefferson County over the weekend, killing his passenger, is now facing deportation. While a farm family is grieving the loss of one of their workers, it means uncertainty in their future. As our Brian Dwyer reports, local farm leaders say it's about time lawmakers stepped up.
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- Police have charged Amado Hernandez-Alvarado, 23, with second degree manslaughter, drunk driving, speeding and driving without a license. The feds, though, are looking to deport him.
Hernandez-Alvarado was driving Saturday on Lake Road in the Town of Ellisburg. The truck flipped, killing his passenger, Rafael Espinoza, 33, of Mexico.
ICE says Hernandez-Alvarado was in the country illegally, working on a local farm. It says once his court proceedings are done and he completes any time served required, they'll look to ship him out of the country.
And while the investigation into Hernandez-Alvarado is in full swing, ICE officials tell us they will not confirm nor deny the exitance of an investigation into Sheland Farms as a whole.
Jefferson County Ag Coordinator Jay Matteson says most times when Illegals are found on farms, they were hired because they presented paperwork that was forged, showing they were legal, even though they weren't.
But he says they shouldn't have to. Current U.S. laws, the H2A visa program allows illegal workers to be on farms for roughly a nine month period. That's not enough according to Matteson. He says the farms need years, anywhere from three to five for training and to get the job done correctly. He says he's tired of hearing lawmakers talk the talk on reform and now wants to see them walk the walk.
"I haven't seen fire in anybody's belly about this," Matteson said. "I know they all support our farms, I've never questioned that. I just haven't seen any fire in anybody's belly to fix this problem."
Matteson says if it's not fixed, farms will be in trouble. He says in his experience, farms often can't rely on a local workforce who might take the job, but quit within weeks.
"Standing at the back end of a cow is not the most glamorous work in the world," he said. "You've got to bust your butt milking cows. It's not a job a lot of people want to do."
Matteson says farms without a reliable workforce don't work, meaning the industry as a whole won't either.
"If we don't have people to do the jobs that our farms need done, where's our food going to come from? China?" he asks.
Matteson says to avoid that, the country only needs to be realistic.
Back in March of last year, ICE agents raided the Butterfield farms in Jefferson County after a farming accident killed a worker. Eight illegal workers were taken into custody. Farm owner John Barney was charged with harboring illegals.