In California, farmworker families must leave state-run migrant camps at the end of the growing season and move more than 50 miles away. This means that the children in these families are uprooted twice a year and often fall behind and drop out of school. Farmworker advocates are challenging this state ruling, asking that lawmakers exempt families with school-aged children from relocation.
Advocates have been fighting the California Department of Housing and Community Development ruling for several years.
“It just feels like we have been stonewalled time and time again, and there’s no evidence that (legislators) have been willing to do anything,” Lauren Ornelas, founder and executive director of the Food Empowerment Project, told the Los Angeles Times. “While they are talking about it, children aren’t graduating from high school.”
The 50-mile rule, others argue, is necessary so as to free up housing that is in ever short supply. California’s Office of Migrant Housing oversees 24 farmworker centers that house around 12,000 farmworkers every year. Farmworker advocates point out, however, that the housing program was created in the 1970s for mostly male agricultural workers who did not have families. The rule today, researchers say, causes about 3,500 children to leave their schools every year.