Latino farmworkers and civil- and labor-rights groups are calling on Washington officials to immediately send food aid and provide housing for families who’ve lost their homes to the state’s wildfires.
Leaders of the Washington State League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Latino Community Fund of Washington and residents of Bridgeport and other Douglas County towns where fires ripped through this month made the plea during a Sunday call with reporters.
It’s unclear how many families have been affected, the organizations said, partly because the state hasn’t yet assessed the extent of destruction to farm labor cabins — where pickers and other farmworkers live.
The organizations also urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess the region as a disaster area and provide mobile homes.
“Who are we going to be holding accountable for the lack of information, masks and mistreatment and disrespect of our community? Is it our state, is it labor and industry or is it the employers? We’ve been fighting this fight for a long time,” said Diana Perez, state director of LULAC, which is collecting donations for people who have lost their homes.
Spokane resident Anai Palacios Isidra said her parents lost all their possessions, including two cars and their mobile home, and have been staying with relatives since Labor Day. Her parents have lived and worked in Bridgeport for more than a decade; her mother packs apples and her father works in the fields. Her parents and siblings are now living in a donated camper trailer.
“We lost everything,” Isidra said. “We’re just trying to get the word out that we really need help,” she said.
Another woman said she’s had no offers of help, while some expressed concern about working the fields while air quality is still poor. Others told stories about struggles to maintain social distancing in emergency shelters.
“We’re the ones on the front line and bearing the brunt of climate (change) and all the injustices that happen to farmworkers,” said Edgar Franks, political director for Familias Unidas por la Justicia, an independent farmworker union in Burlington, Skagit County. “We’ve been trying to ring the alarm for many years.”