The Farmer Helping Mexican Immigrants

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The Farmer Helping Mexican Immigrants

Ending illegal immigration was a signature promise when Donald Trump swept to power in 2016. But on the ground it’s a more complex picture – and for one farmer in Wisconsin, undocumented workers have been a lifeline. And he’s going to extraordinary lengths to repay them.

The paved road suddenly ends and all the numbers and street signs disappear along with it, turning into a gravel path cutting through green and golden pastures.

On one side of the path, there are small signs with slogans that are difficult to read from the vehicle.

“It is about the climate,” one seems to say. “It is about you,” is written on the next one.

Soon after, there is a much larger one, hanging on a fence: “Vote November 3. Wisconsinites for Biden.”

It is the first sign in several miles showing support for the Democratic presidential candidate.

“My wife is the one with the signs. I used to be that kind of guy. But now I just put them up,” says farmer John Rosenow amidst laughter, at his house in Waumandee.

Rosenow says he is an exception in this small community, one of the counties in Wisconsin that gave President Donald Trump his surprise victory in 2016.

Signs for Joe Biden in a rural Wisconsin neighbourhoodIMAGE COPYRIGHTT.G.
image captionIn Rosenow’s neighbourhood, Biden signs are a rarity

Wisconsin had not voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s but it went narrowly for Trump, in part because of strong support for him in rural enclaves like this one.

Rosenow’s family is well known in the area for being part of a project that helped knock down barriers between the US and Mexico. They call it Puentes [bridges].

“This is Roberto driving by. You’ll meet him sometime. Last night we went to play golf together. He’s got the golf bug really bad… so do I,” Rosenow says, pointing to a man driving a loud vehicle down the road.

Mexican immigrant Roberto Tecpile has worked for six years in this dairy farm.

“He’s been here since 4am, feeding cows”, Rosenow says at around midday. A few hours after that, Tecpile will still be at the farm.

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On a September morning, Rosenow’s business, Rosenholm Dairy, seems to be operating with clockwork-like efficiency. But the situation now is drastically different to what they experienced in the 1990s, when nobody seemed to want to work here.

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“It was 1998. We could no longer hire people locally so we decided reluctantly to hire immigrants. I hired the first one through a company out of Texas,” the farmer remembers.

“He worked for two months and he was wonderful. But he was lonely because he was the only Mexican within 100 miles, so he left”.

It was the beginning of an inflow of migrants, many of them undocumented. They ended up saving Rosenow’s farm and that of many others in this corner of Wisconsin, during a time of acute labour shortages.

The Farmer Helping Mexican Immigrants

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