A unique place home to thousands of immigrant and migrant farmworkers – Latino, Haitian and African-American alike – Immokalee has seen some improvements since the days when it was the feature story of a series of articles on the severe poverty and discrimination that characterized the community. Now, various churches, health and service organizations have moved into the community and help to provide some of the services, assistance and informational and educational needs of the population.
Acres and acres and miles and miles of vegetable farms sprawl across the area and citrus groves are big business around the town itself. Unfortunately, Immokalee gained fame again, this time nationally, in 2005, when Carlitos, a baby born with no arms or legs, was born to a farmworker mother who worked at AgMart farms during her pregnancy. Carlitos’ image was televised around the country, and troubling questions were raised when, soon thereafter, two other babies with severe birth defects were born to farmworker women working at the same farm and who also had been exposed to pesticides while pregnant. Staff in Immokalee continue to conduct pesticide health and safety trainings to farmworkers in the area, to help them recognize the risks of exposure, how to protect themselves and what their rights are under current regulations.
The Citrus Workers Project was also born in Immokalee. Created to address the most common cause of injury to citrus workers – eye injuries – the project trains camp health aides, or promotores, to administer first aid in case of eye injury in the field and to encourage workers to wear protective eye glasses to protect themselves from injury. The success of the project in Immokalee has translated into the program expanded into other areas of the state.