The Physiological Toll of Farmwork
The only survey of migrant farmworkers’ health in California that used clinical exams to collect data found this occupational group had “startlingly” high rates of hypertension and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Drawing upon the narratives of two migrant farmworking women who were both hospitalized for hypertension, this chapter explores the role of “immigration stress” and “work stress” in producing their chronic disease. While public health researchers have recently pointed to racial minorities’ physiological response to chronic discrimination as an explanation for their higher rates of hypertension, this chapter makes an analogous argument for legal minorities. It suggests that the recent trend towards heightened interior immigration enforcement subjects all noncitizens to forms of “everyday violence,” only increasing their chronic worry and “perseverative stress.” This chapter explores how the stress of being a legal minority gets under migrants’ skin, helping account for migrant farmworkers’ higher rates of chronic morbidity and mortality.
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