Each year, tens of thousands of Latino migrant farmworkers return to the hills and fields of North Carolina to live in employer-provided labor camps that often fail to meet regulatory and ethical standards. Little attention has been paid to how these workers and their families perceive and respond to substandard housing conditions. This paper analyzes how far and in what ways Latino migrant farmworkers living in eastern North Carolina labor camps feel their agency extends in responding to substandard housing and work conditions, while also considering who among them has the power to exercise this agency. Based on qualitative analysis of interviews with twenty-three migrant farmworkers or partners of farmworkers, our findings indicate that the limits of migrant farmworker agency are strongly dictated by the close relationship between migrant farmworker employment and housing; by the importance of remittance wages for dependents; and by individual immigration, gender, and education characteristics. In the current context, the informal and reparative nature of agentive acts in substandard labor camps creates real but minor improvements while also co-constructing the very structural neglect to which it responds. We conclude that current housing and labor policy frameworks do little to amplify and support differentially distributed migrant farmworker agency and its individualized successes.

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