In North Carolina, immigrant farmworkers wonder about their place in America

If you take us out, let’s see who else wants to work those fields. On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump said he would scrap DACA. He’s 18 now —   but undocumented. Without it, Jose says, the idea of going underground comes back, along with the possiblity of returning to the fields. And that’s what we did. It’s getting dark and I drive on a dirt road along a plantation. And I was like, well, I might end up doing something like working in the fields. Tacos —   tongue, pork, beef. And my dad would say, well grab some dirt and powder your hands. It temporarily protects people like Jose —   who came to the US as kids —   from deportation. “Working in the tobacco fields, when it’s hot … “And that really got to me. “I would be picking and it’s so quiet, and then out of nowhere you just hear ‘ZUM!’”
She says she got so afraid of insects, she’d have several panic attacks a day. Related:   A North Carolina family grapples with very different takes on the immigration debate
Afterwards, the kids go play — they’re all US citizens. I guess I actually am pretty worried.”
He just graduated from high school and wants to study computer engineering at North Carolina State. It kind of lingers from time to time. But now he’s nervous. it can be over 100 degrees,”   Elena says. Yessy Bustos remembers it like this: “Dirt. He wanted him to focus on school. And lets them work, legally. DACA lets him not worry about deportation. “Everyone thought the same thing,”   she says. There’s a noise   and an odor to the cotton fields in summer. “What are we going to do now? And I’ve never seen an American out there. But, this month Trump said he’ll “work something out” for people in the program. She works to prevent exploitation, and the hiring of underage workers,   like she once was. Now, she advocates for farmworkers in North Carolina   with an organization called NC Field, working out of a dilapidated white house by the fields. And then, the bugs.”Player utilitiesPopout
downloadListen to the Story. Bustos retired at the ripe old age of 21. We’re all waiting for January now.”
There’s nervous laughter and they all say, maybe nothing will happen. Sometimes you have to get out of the bush to breath. He asks to be identified by his first name only, because of his status. He got legal work, at a restaurant. Elena has been here for about 20 years. His dad discouraged him from working in the fields. His parents bought him from Mexico when he was a kid. We eat and talk about soccer. I don’t know what I want to do.”
I say goodbye to Jose —   and to Yessy Bustos — and head to the fields. Enforcement is up, but I still get an earful of stories about child pickers — people like Jose. The parents are undocumented.

Bustos comes from a family of pickers. In a field in North Carolina, young men and boys pick yams. A lot. “It’s just a thought that I really dont want to think about. … So are the 740,000   other immigrants like him who have DACA. She started when she was 8. Jose says, “I am a little worried. And then I actually started thinking about it more. Related:   In North Carolina, an immigrant church braces for the Trump administration
Jose says it changed his life. He never went back to the fields. And that’s when I gave working in the fields a try.”
He was 14. Credit:

Jose (last name redacted)/PRI

In middle school, Jose remembers being really into biology —   and getting teased for it. At the same, they say, who will do the work they do? And I was like, alright. And then keep going. “And the plants —   they cover you completely. His classmates told him, he’d never go to college. Without change —   with no push to offer families like these legal status — also means they’ll keep working in harsh conditions for extremely low pay. There are   trailer homes, too, and when I stop by one and knock on the door,   I’m invited in for dinner. “It was either nicotine or the amount of nicotine that was on the plant. He remembers that first day, the stickiness of the tobacco plants on his hands. It’s just us Hispanics —   always Hispanics. The dirt. Every single season, someone dies. Not everyone can do this you know.” So she started wearing headphones. He was a Mexican kid in the South, he says. Since the election, she’s unsure what’s next. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Not everyone was welcoming. She’s a US citizen, but knows   many pickers here are undocumented. Just powdered our hands with dirt.”
Things changed in 2012 when President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often called DACA.