Demanding justice for the death of a valley farmworker

FRESNO, Calif.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez died of heatstroke two years ago, shortly after collapsing in a vineyard near Stockton.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez was two months pregnant when she died. Yet, two of the people charged in her death, may not have to serve a single day in prison. A judge will make that decision next Wednesday.

It is not fair says Doroteo Jimenez, of the possible sentence that two of the people charged in his niece's death may receive. The family, together with the UFW and various human rights organizations have launched a campaign to convince a San Joaquin County judge to dismiss a plea bargain in the death of 17-year-old Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez. The young farmworker died of a heat stroke in 2008 after passing out in a vineyard near Stockton.

Sarait Martinez said, "We're dealing with a person's life, we really need to take this in consideration and make the right decisions and really punish this persons."

The defendants in the case are the crewman and the contractors who hired Vasquez Jimenez. They were charged with failing to provide water, shade and quick medical attention. Under the plea agreement, they would receive only probation and community service.

Leoncio Vasquez said, "How is it possible that they were responsible for this and they are just going to receive some community service and probation that is not justice.

Oaxacan community groups have joined in the effort. They say recent immigrants, particularly indigenous people, like Vasquez-Jimenez who'd been in the country only two-months, often face discrimination in the fields. Many don't speak either English or Spanish.

Martinez said, "We see the fear of people -- people aren't speaking up, they don't know their rights, but they should be aware that these laws exist and they should be able to speak up."

Some student organizations at Fresno State are also getting involved.

Fresno State Alumni, Matt Rogers said, "Fresno State represents our community, the diversity of our community. Many of these students have parents, grandparents who were farmworkers, who are still farmworkers, and we thought this would be the greatest place for a day of action."

They're asking students to take part in a day of action, next Monday march 7th. Their goal is to send a thousand emails to the district attorney and judge in the case.

Rogers said, "Justice has not been served so far, and what we're asking is 'what is the life of a farmworker worth?' and so far in this courtroom it has not been worth very much."

The day of action at Fresno State will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the free speech area.

The UFW and community groups are planning vigils outside the courthouse in Stockton next Monday and Tuesday.

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