COVID-19 RESPONSE: Take action to protect farmworkers in Immokalee!


“They didn’t kill an animal; they killed a human being… I want justice for this man and this young child that is left without a dad,” said Yola Martinez, close friend of Nicholas Morales, Immokalee farmworker shot and killed by Collier County Sheriff deputies…

CIW: “We must have a full investigation and justice for Nicholas and his family, as well as for the broader Immokalee community as a whole.  And so that justice may be done, we demand to know the truth.”

Today, we are heart-broken to bring you what we know of a still-developing story from right here in Immokalee about the death of Nicholas Morales, a longtime farmworker in the Immokalee community who was shot and killed on September 17th by a deputy of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office:


Nicholas Morales, a single father, an Immokalee farmworker, and a longtime part of the CIW family, was shot to death by Collier County Sheriff deputies in the dead of night on Thursday, September 17th.  

Even based solely on the version of events provided by the Sheriff’s Office — Nicholas was alone and is no longer with us, and so cannot provide his own recounting of events — we see no conceivable justification for his killing.  According to the recording of the 911 call released by the Sheriff’s Office, a deputy fatally shot Nicholas mere seconds after arriving on the scene. The officer claimed to fear for his life because Nicholas was carrying a shovel and an unidentified “sharp object” and was “advancing” toward the police officers.  In other words, an officer entrusted with the power over life and death by the state, armed with lethal force and backed by several fellow officers, also armed, took mere seconds to analyze a fluid situation and determine that a lone man posed such a threat that he had no choice but to take his life.

Immokalee will not stand for unconscionable acts of violence in our community. Nicholas’ death has left a young boy without a father, and the way his life was taken will instill fear in our neighbors for years to come.  We must have a full investigation and justice for Nicholas and his family, as well as for the broader Immokalee community as a whole.  And so that justice may be done, we demand to know the truth.

The Sheriff’s Office must produce a complete accounting of what occurred in the seconds between the deputies’ arrival, and the shooting of Nicholas Morales.  We, the Immokalee community, must know exactly what the deputies said, and what they did.  We call on the Sheriff’s Office to release any video footage or audio recordings of the event immediately, and to reveal the identify of the officers involved without further delay.

The day after Nicholas was killed, members of Nicholas’s family and community gathered to hold a vigil around the blood-stained pavement where he was shot on early Thursday morning to grieve together and call for justice.  Here are just a few photos from the moving evening, raw with the sudden loss of a man who had worked hard to raise his son by himself, who had harvested food for the tables of families across the nation, who had been deeply loved by his extended family and friends, and who had been a part of the CIW family.

Fox 4, a cornerstone of local news coverage based in Fort Myers, interviewed friends and family of Morales:

Community left with questions following deadly deputy-involved shooting

An emotional outpouring Friday in Eastern in Collier County as loved ones gathered around a vigil for a man fatally shot during a deputy-involved shooting.

Community members say they are left with many questions on what exactly unfolded Thursday morning after a Collier County deputy fatally shot 37-year-old Nicholas Morales-Bessania.

An Immokalee farmworker and father of a 13-year-old boy.

“He was a peaceful man, a hard worker, who took care of his son, he was a widow,” said Yola Martinez, a close friend of Morales…

… Loved ones now calling on the sheriff’s office to release any video footage or audio recordings of the incident, and are demanding a thorough investigation.

“They didn’t kill an animal; they killed a human being,” said Martinez. “I want justice for this man and this young child that is left without a dad.”

The vigil was both opened and brought to a somber close by community pillar and Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Miguel Estrada, who had these words to share as captured by WGCU’s Andrea Perdomo:

Vigil Held For Immokalee Man Fatally Shot by Collier Sheriff’s Office Deputy

“[It’s] not the first time that something happens that is really bad regarding members of this community with relations with the police,” [Miguel] Estrada said…“The problem is that it sounds like the details on their report, the official report that they submitted, doesn’t match with what some of the witnesses around this community are telling about it,” Estrada said. “And even if [the CCSO report] is the case, when you hear the call the 911 recording, things happen just too soon. If I remember well, it’s 23 seconds after [CCSO deputies] arrived, you hear the shooting.”

Pastor Miguel’s words underscore what must come next:  We need answers to the many questions that are still lingering about Nicholas’s killing.  In the days ahead, the Sheriff’s Office must produce a complete accounting of what occurred in the mere seconds between the deputies’ arrival and when they shot Nicholas, they must allow the public to see any video footage or audio recordings of the event immediately, and they must reveal the identify of the officers involved without further delay.

We will leave you with the closing segment of WGCU’s story, capturing a final heart-rending song at the vigil shared by Nicholas’s friend, Yola:




Gov. DeSantis, Collier County: Take action NOW to protect Immokalee’s farmworkers from COVID-19 ahead of the harvest!

September 3, 2020

The clock is ticking: Farmworkers returning to Florida for the fall harvest season, students returning to school in Immokalee for in-person classes, combine to create fertile ground for a new COVID-19 outbreak; State and county health officials must take immediate action, work with internationally-acclaimed Partners In Health to protect the Sunshine State’s essential workers! Over the past several months, Florida became a global hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic, reaching record-breaking infection levels in early July that would have ranked the state 4th in the world for new coronavirus cases in a day if it were a country.  The rural farmworker community […]

A quote by the late Congressman John Lewis resurfaces, and not a moment too soon…

August 28, 2020

Civil Rights hero cites CIW in introduction to his final book on his life in the fight for social justice… Congressman John Lewis: “Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.” To quote, or perhaps to paraphrase, Thomas Paine, “These are the times that try (our) souls.” Paine was of course talking about a particularly dark and difficult moment in the history of the American Revolution, but he might as well have been talking about America today, 244 years later.   This week […]

This fall, host a CIW farmworker leader as a virtual speaker in your classroom, congregation, or community meeting!

August 26, 2020

This fall, farmworker leaders of the CIW will be traveling virtually from Immokalee to cities across the country to speak with students, community leaders, and people of faith about the struggle for essential farmworkers’ rights – and about the CIW’s award-winning Fair Food Program, recently called the new “gold standard” for protecting human rights in global supply chains! Don’t miss this opportunity to schedule a virtual presentation in your community today. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the longstanding inequities at the heart of our food system, from meatpacking factories to the fields. The need for enforceable protections and safety measures […]

Largest cut flower farm on US East Coast joins the Fair Food Program!

August 17, 2020

photos via Bloomia — international leader in the cut flower industry with farms on four continents — brings its US greenhouse operations in King George, Virginia, into the expanding Fair Food Program… Just last week we shared news of the Fair Food Program’s expansion into a new state, as we welcomed Smoky Mountain Family Farms of Tennessee into the Fair Food fold.   And today comes the exciting news of Fair Food Program expansion into a new crop, with the addition of cut flower leader Bloomia to the growing roster of Fair Food Program farms! For those of you not […]

Harvard Law School Human Rights Program hosts CIW for webinar on business and human rights!

August 7, 2020

Check out highlights from a remarkable conversation on the groundbreaking, 10-year study detailing the failure of the dominant Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) model and lifting up the Fair Food Program as the way forward for protecting human rights in corporate supply chains…  Last week, we reported on the release of an unprecedented new study that is shaking up the world of business and human rights.  The report, titled “Not Fit for Purpose: The Grand Experiment of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives in Corporate Accountability, Human Rights, and Global Governance,” was the academic equivalent of the children’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” – a […]

Fair Food Program expansion marches on, even in these difficult times!

July 31, 2020

Award-winning Fair Food Program breaks ground in Tennessee alongside longtime partner Sunripe Certified Brands and new FFP Participating Grower, Smoky Mountain Family Farms… Even in these dark and difficult times, the Fair Food Program continues to inspire and transform lives for the better. First came the publication last week of an unprecedented, decade-long study carried out by MSI Integrity, the Harvard University-incubated project that undertook an in-depth examination of 40 of the world’s best-known social responsibility certification programs.  In a report titled “Not Fit for Purpose,” MSI Integrity concluded that traditional corporate social responsibility schemes – including such well known […]

New study confirms: All social responsibility programs NOT created equal!

July 21, 2020

10-year, independent study by NGO MSI Integrity finds corporate-led, Multi-stakeholder Initiative (MSI) model for social responsibility “should not be relied upon for the protection of human rights”; Study concludes: “MSIs are not effective tools for holding corporations accountable for abuses, protecting rights holders against human rights violations, or providing survivors and victims with access to remedy”; Study cites Fair Food Program, Worker-driven Social Responsibility model as leading examples of new “gold standard,” with effective mechanisms for “empowering rights holders to know and exercise their rights”… PLEASE SHARE: A decade of research from @MSIIntegrity finds systemic failures across 40 multi-stakeholder initiatives, […]

At “the epicenter of the epicenter”…

July 6, 2020

CIW’s Gerardo Reyes on MSNBC “Into America” podcast: “The people that place the food on the table of every family deserve better.” Month of June sees national media attention turn to the disaster unfolding in CIW’s backyard, as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Immokalee, rest of Florida… For people living in Immokalee, the month of June was like no other in living memory.  As the deadly coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the farmworker community, and increased testing — finally — revealed the depth and breadth of the virus’s reach, it became painfully clear that life in this small agricultural community would […]

Governor DeSantis on farmworkers: “You don’t want those folks mixing with the general public”…

June 22, 2020

Faced with skyrocketing infection rates and questions regarding his decision to re-open the state despite alarming data trends, Florida Governor DeSantis chooses division over compassion, scapegoating over science… Governor blames “overwhelmingly Hispanic” farmworkers, and crowded living and working conditions beyond their control, for sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases, rather than ask if his own actions — and inaction — might have contributed to the dramatic increase in suffering and death among farmworkers in his state;   CIW’s Silvia Perez: “Our community is very small so when a worker loses their life, the community notices and comes together to raise […]

Collier County Health Department announces new plans for ongoing, free, community-wide COVID-19 testing in Immokalee starting this weekend!

May 29, 2020 WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida In response to dangerous spike of COVID-19 cases in Immokalee, Collier County Department of Health announces plans to partner with Doctors Without Borders and local clinic to provide urgently-needed testing!…  Dr. Seth Holmes on NBC2: “Florida is one of the main agricultural producers for the whole country, so if we can protect our farmworkers, we’re also protecting our food system.“ At the beginning of May, nearly two months into the coronavirus pandemic, there were only 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Immokalee.  Today, less than a month later, there […]