Karst chat with Bill Coats: Focus on the kids of migrant workers - The Packer

Karst chat with Bill Coats: Focus on the kids of migrant workers

07/08/2011 02:45:00 PM
Tom Karst



11:24 a.m. Karst: Does that create a worry that the services you provide might be a we get between children and their parents?


11:25 a.m. Coats: Exactly. Their parents love it that their kids are rapidly Americanizing. They know their kids are learning to speak English, because that is the key to success here. But nevertheless we worry that, you know, that we are imparting a little estrangement. We also realize that for kids growing up in poverty have countless impediments at home that make it harder to learn.  So every one of our child care centers has access to what we call a family support staffer – FSS -  whose job is not to teach, not childcare but family care. If they don’t have driver’s licenses and can’t get to the dentist, our FSS will probably give them a ride. If they get to the dentist and nobody speaks Spanish, our FSS will translate. If they have immigration problems to work out, we’ll help. If they have financial problems where we could give them some advice – whatever – we’ll do it.

So we go about to maintain good relationships with these families in rural areas. Where we operate, the RCMA center is a popular place. We don’t have to market our selves to the farm workers, they know about us.

The story I wanted to tell you; three weeks ago a lot of these families they hear every day about what is going on in politics and immigration enforcement crackdowns. We had a family of south of Tampa who were ready to migrate to Ohio to pick cucumbers. They decided they would do it differently this year. They would travel differently. When they drove through Georgia, they would do at night instead of day because of what they heard about Georgia.

It turned out they didn’t get out of Florida. A Florida state trooper pulled them over in the middle of the night saying their headlights were too dim. We don’t know on what grounds, the trooper searched their van and found the false identification papers that any undocumented immigration has to have to get a job around here. And so they were arrested and all charged with a package of felonies.

It was three adults; a woman, her husband and his brother and the couple two little boys, aged 5 and 7.  So the Florida highway patrol arrested the adults and kept them in a county jail for a week and shipped the boys to foster care in the middle of the night.

So when the family finally raises bail - $1,000 for each adult - to get out of jail, they couldn’t find anything out about the kids. And people at the jail said get out of here or you going to be arrested again. The mom was insisting she wasn’t going to leave until she had her sons and they threatened her with arrest. So they drive back to south of Tampa and on Monday morning when their old child care center opened up, they were there, waiting for us.

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