In the fields of south Texas Mexican women work long hours in dangerous conditions under the ever-present threat of deportation

On a rainy, pre-dawn Monday morning in the fields of the Rio Grande Valley along the Mexican border in south Texas, little constellations of flashlights twinkle across the green expanse. They are held by undocumented immigrants, mostly from Mexico, and mostly living in fear of arrest and deportation but working all the same to provide for their families. Their fingers twist the tie on bunches of parsley or hack stalks of kale until their palms blister. Most of Texas is still asleep.

Many of them are paid on a contract basis, by the box. A box of cilantro will earn a worker $3; experienced farmworkers say they can fill one within an hour, which means a typical 5am to 6pm work day would earn them $39 total. The work can vary from physically uncomfortable and mundane (cilantro, lettuce, beets) to outright painful and dangerous (watermelon, parsley, grapefruit).

I just hope there is a way for us to get documents, because some of us are really working here.

Related: ‘Be very careful’: the dangers for Mexicans working legally on US farms

I always want to keep working, because I never want a man to be able to control me and ask me how I spent his money.

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