The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996: Implications for Hispanic Migrant Farmworkers’ Access to Federal and State Benefits

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Lacar, Marvi S.
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My interest in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) grew out of my summer volunteer work with Kip Adrian for the Bangor Intercare clinic. In line with my Health Science major and Spanish minor, I initially intended my Senior Individualized Project (SIP) to be a study of the problems of access to health care services among Hispanic migrant farmworkers. However, by helping Kip in conducting EPSDTs (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment) at the migrant daycare centers in Southwest Michigan, I became more interested in the issue of welfare reforms and the concerns of the migrant workers with regard to the curtailment of their federal benefits. My interest in photography arose from opportunities opened by foreign study and internship programs, which allowed me to capture other “worlds” beyond the confines of the academe. The photographs accompanying this report portray various aspects of the migrants’ living conditions during their transient stay here in Michigan. I share them with the readers in hopes that they will raise the public’s awareness of the migrants’ concerns. Given, however, the apprehensions of some respondents in this study, I was limited to certain boundaries and subjects for these photographs. While a few images do portray some of the ill conditions at the camps, most are of Lalo (6), Nono (8), Sha-Sha (2), Janie (15) and Debbie (14)—children with whom I became friends and who were willing to show me around the camp and the farm. Migrant workers still remain a disenfranchised group in the American political system, but ironically, political rhetoric is not yet a concern to these children. A crew leader once commented that regardless of the grade that I would get on this paper. . . “ella va pa’rriba, mientras nosotros seguimos así.”* This paper may never change the welfare system nor enlighten lawmakers; considering that several studies have already been conducted by various government agencies, migrant advocates, and other political actors regarding the implications of the PRWORA. Lawmakers, therefore, are not in the dark on this issue. Nevertheless, it is my goal to relate the harsh provisions of this Act with faces, names and stories of people who are adversely affected by the law. While I may never know how far their stories will go, I hope you as readers will comprehend the consequences of the Act. Although we may remain aware of our individual limits, I hope we also begin to acknowledge the potential strengths that may be gained from combined efforts to mobilize for change.
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