Documentary shows struggle of migrant children

Children as young as seven years old fill fields in 48 of the 50 states according to a 2010 documentary focusing on the lives of 3 specific migrant children. The documentary, titled “The Harvest”, was viewed Wednesday, Apr. 11 and followed by a discussion led by associate professor of history Melissa Gormley. The focus of the film is to draw attention to the dangerous task that migrant children face while picking crops across the nation.

To be a migrant means to be a worker that moves from place to place for work. It’s common in Hispanic families and comes at a cost. Migrant children face intense heat, risk of pesticide poisoning and use dangerous tools. Along with the physical aspects of being a child in the fields, there is a risk of lacking education. Most migrant workers struggle to continue an education from moving place to place or have to give up school to work more to provide for their families.

“A couple of the students talked about wanting to be lawyers and wanting to be writers, but one of the major stereotypes is that migrant children want to follow in their parent’s footsteps, and they really don’t,” Gormley said.

The issue of migrant labor laws takes place mainly in states like Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Michigan. Although none of those mentioned are Wisconsin, this problem still affects us here on the UW-Platteville campus and in the Platteville community. Gormley mentioned that we are an access university, and, therefore, it should be our job to provide for students who feel like they cannot be provided for.

“A couple of the students indicated that they are American citizens, and so, what you have here are American children that aren’t able to access the full educational possibilities to secure a better future,” Gormley said.

The average migrant family makes less than $17,500 per year. According to, that’s less than what a fast food fry cook makes per year. Buckling down on the laws on agricultural labor can offer a better future for migrant families all over the U.S., and being a University of Wisconsin school, we have the opportunity to provide that help.