Events, Human Rights Radio

Episode 23: Migration, Law, and the Food Business

Welcome to the first of a two-part podcast series featuring stories of migration. The stories you will hear were made by students in Professor Dina Ramadan’s course Labor and Migration in Arabic Literature and Professor Peter Rosenblum’s course Food, Labor, and Human Rights, both taught in the fall of 2019. This Migration Series comes to you from the Human Rights Project at Bard College, and is a project of the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education, with support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

In this episode, titled “Migration, law, and the food business”, students explore how the United States’ agricultural labor market interacts with immigration law. We’ll hear from street car vendors in New York City, including one of the founders of New York’s most popular street food, The Hallal Guys. We then move upstate to Montgomery Place Orchards to discuss the farm’s history of hiring migrant workers. Next we hear an explanation and analysis of the visa program that has made this kind of labor mobility so central to New York State’s agricultural economy: the H2A temporary worker visa program. Finally, we hear an analysis of New York State’s newly enacted Green Light Bill, which allows residents of New York State to apply for and obtain driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.

Part I

Ask any New Yorker where to find the fastest, cheapest, and arguably best bite in the city (pause and breathe!) and chances are they’ll point you in the direction of the nearest trailer-hitched food cart. Our first story, produced by Genevieve Chiola and Rachel Shamsie, is a look into one of New York’s most iconic street food empires: The Hallal Guys. Their brightly colored red and yellow carts are a fixture of highly trafficked areas, like the New York Public Library on 42nd street, and the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd. Genevieve and Rachel speak to one of the owners of Hallal Guys about what it takes to run a street cart in New York City.

Part II

The next story leaves the bustling streets of New York for the Montgomery Place Orchards. This historic land was acquired by Bard College in 2016 for $18 million dollars, which among other things, safeguards its protected status, and ensures that the orchards remain operational. The federal visa program that allows farms to hire immigrant workers is called the H2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program. Emma Patsey interviews Talea Taylor, who’s been running Montgomery Place Orchards with her husband Doug for the past 30 years, about the benefits and drawbacks of the H2A program.

Part III

Finally, Miranda Sanborn and Melina Roise talk about New York State’s Green Light Bill, passed by the State Senate on June 17, 2019. This legislation grants the right to undocumented residents, who make up roughly 4% of the state’s population, to apply for NY State drivers licenses without fear of deportation.

Special thanks to Genevieve, Claire, Emma, Miranda, and Melina for creating these stories, and to Austin Dilley for hosting this episode. Additional thanks to Dina Ramadan and Peter Rosenblum for their academic support, and finally this podcast is only possible thanks to the institutional support of Human Rights Radio and the Andrew Mellon Foundation through the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education.


Music in this episode: Traveller by Crowander, Rosalie (Bossanova) by Checkie Brown (creative commons licensed music courtesy of Free Music Archive)



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