Michigan Farmer Accused of Racist Attack Against Migrant Worker in Video

A Michigan farmer has been charged after he allegedly spat at a migrant worker after using a string of racist slurs in front of his co-workers.

Travis Schoenborn, 31, who works at the EDS Schoenborn Orchard which his family owns in Ottawa County's Tallmadge Township near Conklin, faces a misdemeanor count of assault and battery after his alleged tirade against the worker in July was captured on video.

The footage, which was handed to Migrant Legal Aid and obtained by WOOD, shows Schoenborn yelling in front of a line of workers, and he appears to be directing the insults, including the n-word, at one worker in particular.

Schoenborn is also alleged to have spat on the victim, according to a police report seen by WOOD. It is unclear what prompted the outburst.

Teresa Hendricks-Pitsch, lead attorney at Migrant Legal Aid, said the video contained "some of the worst verbal abuse" the agency has ever captured on tape.

When confronted by WOOD, the suspect's parents downplayed the racism allegation aimed at their son.

"First of all, they weren't black," said his mother, Valerie Schoenborn. "They were Mexican. So, I don't know why he called him the n-word."

When asked whether they are comfortable with their son using the racist slurs seen in the video, his father David Schoenborn said: "We didn't have no [n-word] work here, that I know of."

Hendricks-Pitsch said the case surrounding EDS Schoenborn Orchard is rare as often migrant workers are too afraid to speak out at the abuse they experience.

"Unfortunately, most of the people that abuse the farm workers know that it's not likely that they will ever be prosecuted because farm workers are not willing to put themselves at risk," Hendricks-Pitsch said.

She added that she believes the current political climate means there has been an increase in the number of attacks against migrant workers.

"This has been an increasing problem with violence on farms since 2016," Hendricks-Pitsch said in an apparent reference to the year Donald Trump won the election on the back of a string of anti-immigration policies.

"It seems to be more blatant—more overt—and it's not something that's hidden as much anymore."

She added: "It would make sense to me that for the kind of behavior shown on the video and audio that Travis Schoenborn spend time behind bars.

"It would be the least that could bring some form of justice to our victim and it would be a deterrent if others saw that he actually spent time behind bars."

The Ottawa County Sheriff's Office has been contacted for comment.

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Using large farm equipment instead of manual labor, workers harvest a tobbaco field in North Carolina. A Michigan farm worker has been charged after he allegedly used racist language and spat at a migrant worker. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty
Michigan Farmer Accused of Racist Attack Against Migrant Worker in Video | U.S.