Skilled, but systemically vulnerable contract farmworkers are performing an increasing amount of agricultural work across the U.S. and are especially exposed to workplace abuses exacerbated by the climate crisis, the AP reports.

Migrant farmworkers are often scared to raise concerns about unsafe workplace conditions, such as being forced to work in extreme heat without water and shade breaks, due to their legal and logistical circumstances. Many either have H-2A visas, which are tied to one specific job, or lack legal documentation to work in the U.S. altogether — both leave farmworkers exposed to threats of deportation. For many, “there’s no other option,” but to endure abuses like working unpaid overtime in extreme heat, a North Carolina worker told the AP in Spanish. “People with an H-2A visa have to come to work, they have to comply with their work and they have to do their work.”

Migrant farmworkers are also often isolated, living on the farms where they work, and thus prevented from accessing resources like healthcare and counseling. No federal standards exist protecting workers from extreme heat exposure. “I worry about some of our most vulnerable populations who have contract jobs that don’t have very good protections in place being more exposed to worse conditions,” Arizona State University professor Jennifer Vanos, who studies climate and health with a focus on extreme heat, told the AP. Adding, it’s “a scary situation because people die and that’s just not okay.” (AP)