Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula photo via Facebook

published on February 13, 2024 - 2:38 PM
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The federal government estimates 13% of California’s farmworkers are migrants — reporting jobs at least 75 miles apart or moving more than 75 miles for a farm job in a 12-month period.

This system requires affordable housing that is temporary, meaning farmworkers and their families eventually must eventually leave, which can disrupt lives and education.

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula announced on Tuesday his introduction of AB 2240, a farmworker housing bill that ensures families are not forced to leave these temporary housing centers because of what he calls outdated requirements. Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas of Salinas is the principal co-author.

The bill was authored after a Sacramento Bee newspaper investigation found farmworkers would opt to stay in their units if they remained open. 

“Farmworkers are the backbone of our agricultural industry. This was especially so during the pandemic when they worked to put food on our tables while suffering disproportionately from the COVID-19 virus. AB 2240 will ensure that current requirements won’t continue to cause families unnecessary stress and instability. We should keep housing facilities open year-round, especially because the state has a critical affordable housing shortage,” said Arambula in a press release.

The bill would authorize the California Department of Housing and Community Development to keep its 24 migratory farmworker housing centers open year-round. These complexes house thousands of farmworkers and their families a few months each year. The closures force these families to lose affordable housing and find alternatives.  

One of these housing centers in Parlier features 131 units.

The bill also eliminates a requirement that farmworkers and their families live outside a 50-mile radius of the centers for at least three months to be eligible for housing. It has impacted the continuity of the education of children who have had to move from school to school — or miss school entirely for months, according to the authors.

“We must keep these homes accessible year-round so that farmworkers can access safe and affordable places to live. This legislation also allows families to remain connected to their communities, and it ensures children get to stay at their local schools. I thank Dr. Arambula for leading on this issue and delivering real solutions for our migrant farmworkers,” said Rivas. 

Advocacy organizations such as the Food Empowerment Project, the Center on Race, Immigration, and Social Justice, and the Center for Farmworker Families also support AB 2240. 

A female high school junior who currently lives in the centers shared with Arambula’s team that the camps staying open all year will help all the students, including herself, who struggle with education. She only receives nine months of education each year, and, as an upcoming senior who’s struggling right now, she probably won’t be able to graduate with her class because of how much school she misses.

“Regarding the families in general, most of us have nowhere to go when the camps close. Some of us even stay living in the streets in our cars just for the students to be able to finish their finals. The camps make not only a big impact in my life but also hundreds of others,” she said. 

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