BEAUFORT, S.C. (CN) – A South Carolina tomato farm discriminated against Haitian migrant workers, first promising them work for the season, then firing them and giving their jobs to Mexican migrants, eight Haitians claim in Federal Court.
The eight Haitians, none of whom was provided with transportation or money to return home, say the farm and its labor contractors willfully violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Act. They seek damages commensurate with their humiliating treatment.
The workers say labor contractors Carlos and Maria Morice, representing Seaside Farm on St. Helena Island, S.C., enticed Bernard Benjamin and seven others to leave their Florida homes for South Carolina with the promise of an extended period of employment.
Even in extending the offer, Maria Morice allegedly told the plaintiffs the farm didn’t really want to hire Haitains.
Before starting of the recruitment drive, Seaside Farm was certified by the U.S. Department of Labor to employ 230 temporary foreign workers to work their tomato crop. To get the certification, the farm had to show there weren’t enough U.S. to meet its needs, and promise they would give first preference to workers already in the United States, either as citizens or aliens authorized to work.
After arriving at the farm, the Haitians say they were housed at a migrant camp for a week, then told there was no work for Haitians. They were kicked out of the camp and had to borrow money to get home, according to the complaint.
Then 50 Mexicans were brought to the camp and provided with the work that had been promised to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are represented by Daniel Unumb with South Carolina Legal Services.