Trejo is among the 66,000 migrants who enter the United States legally as H2B Guest Workers.
H2B is a visa program that gives workers access to minimum-wage, non-agricultural jobs that, employers say, would otherwise go unfilled because the pay is low, the employment seasonal and the work often back breaking and tedious.
Trejo’s employer is G. W. Hall & Son [“Trejo” is an immigrant in the country under the H2B Guest Workers program], a major seafood supplier on Hoopers Island, a remote community on Maryland’s eastern shore. For eight hours a day, five or six days a week Trejo works at a long table where the hard-shelled crabs, caught that morning and then steamed, are piled high and ready for her to pick apart.
She makes a minimum hourly wage of $7.25, sometimes more if she picks quickly. Risking injury Trejo works at a rapid pace tossing empty shells into large waste cans. The job is not difficult. It’s a matter of practice.
Jobs Americans don’t want
G.W. Hall & Son once employed American workers. No more. The company says seasonal tedious jobs don’t appeal to Americans anymore.
So owner Brian Hall says he does everything he can to keep his Mexican workers happy. “We provide transportation to and from Mexico. They’ve got a house, a satellite TV, air conditioning. Anything they want, we get it for them.”
Ninety percent of Hall’s business is picking crab meat. Without the women, he says, “I’m out of business and every other plant [around here] is too.” Crab is a $30 million a year industry in Maryland.
Trejo rents the three-bedroom ranch house she shares with co-workers from G.W. Hall & Son.
It is the money that keeps her here for the season, which can last between eight and nine months. “In Mexico, I earned 1,400 pesos [$110] every two weeks. Here I can earn that in three days.”
That’s what Trejo wants too. She’s already earned enough to open a small shop in Mexico, but until it can support her family and help build a better future for her daughter, she will have to continue returning to her job shelling crabs in America.