Guardian: In the piercing midday heat of southern Texas, farmhand Linda Villarreal moves methodically to weed row after row of parsley, rising only occasionally to stretch her achy back and nibble on sugary biscuits she keeps in her pockets. In the distance, a green and white border patrol truck drives along the levee beside the towering steel border wall.
For this backbreaking work, Villareal is paid $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage since 2009, with no benefits. She takes home between $300 and $400 a week depending on the amount of orders from the bodegas – packaging warehouses which supply the country’s supermarkets with fruits and vegetables harvested by crews of undocumented mostly Mexican farmworkers.
Villarreal works six days a week, sometimes seven, putting food on Americans’ tables but earns barely enough to cover the bills and depends on food stamps to feed her own family.
Every day is a hustle: she gets up at 4.30am to make packed lunches for her colleagues, charging them $5 each for homemade tacos, before heading to the fields for a 7 o’clock start. She skips breakfast.
Healthcare is a major struggle for farmworkers: Villarrealtakes diabetes medication a ‘legal’ friend buys from a cheap pharmacy across the border, rather than take time off to attend a nonprofit local health clinic. It’s the wrong dose, but better than nothing she reckons.
“I feel like I’m from here, my children are all American, but I don’t have the paperwork, and that makes everything hard,” said Villarreal, 45, wiping the sweat on her long sleeved hoodie which offers some protection from the harsh sun rays.
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