Close to 70 agricultural day laborers arrive every day at the Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos (Border Farmworker Center) in El Paso in hopes of being hired to harvest nuts and red chilis, but with little hope at all for next year.
Around 1:00 a.m. the farmworkers gather in the street hoping that the overseers or farm owners will soon show up to hire them.
"The harvest season is almost over, which is why the overseers can pick and choose the workers they want. They always prefer the youngest and strongest," Mexican laborer Roberto Miranda told Efe.
The harvest season is almost over, which is why the overseers can pick and choose the workers they want. They always prefer the youngest and strongest
- Roberto Miranda
Once in the fields, he said, they put what they pick in baskets and get paid 80 cents for each basket they fill.
"After eight hours of work without anything to eat, they give me between $25 and $30. But some days I only earn $10," Miranda said.
Many of his fellow farmworkers also complain about the meager pay they get for toiling in the fields, but are universally afraid to say anything about it in public.
Even in temperatures hovering around 40 F (4 C), the men remain in the street hoping to land some work in the fields.
They say the reason many of them sleep outside the Centro is so they can be at the head of the line for a day's work.
"The Centro Agricola offers all of them a roof over their heads where they can shelter from the winter cold," Alicia Marentes, director of social services for the non-profit organization, said.
Marentes said that when their day's work is over, the farmworkers go to the Centro where they can shower and stretch out on air beds or blankets arranged on the floor.
The laborers receive a daily meal from the Centro, as well as legal counsel, English classes and other basic services.
"We have a television for their entertainment while they're waiting for sunrise," the director said.
"Every day we pass through an immigrant registration checkpoint. The officials get on our bus and check our papers in great detail," said another farmworker who asked not to be identified.
"The next harvest season is in June - so how are we going to survive until our work starts up again?" Mario López, another of the workers waiting in line to be chosen by the overseers, said disconsolately.
Lopez said that for each day in the fields he earns $30, but that he has to pay $7 to the driver who takes him to work, and if he buys a burrito to eat and a bottle of water, the money he has left to send back to his kids in Mexico is minimal.
"The future of farmworkers in the United States gets gloomier every day," he said. "We have to ask God to lend us a helping hand so we can survive."