In July, the California migrant worker 50-mile radius/six-month stay rule was lifted, owing in part to a bill introduced by State Assemblywoman Anna Caballero. The old law previously allowed subsidized housing centers for migrant workers, but only within 50 miles of where they work and only for six months. The rule was set when most workers were single men or men whose families lived elsewhere.
“Because kids have to move every six months they often did not graduate high school and rarely attended college,” Caballero said at a recent event in Salinas.
Families can now apply for a waiver for up to 95 additional days if they want to stay in their housing beyond six months, allowing their children to complete the school year in one district.
Elias Barocio of the Hollister Migrant Center on Southside Road said he saw this as a step forward for migrant families, though he added that many migrant workers in San Benito County do not send their children to school here. The children are here only in the summer and many go to school in Mexico or other parts of the U.S., including Arizona and Texas, he said.
Currently, housing at the migrant center is open from May to September. Barocio said that could change now and that many of the families would come if they were to open in March and remain open until October since they could have the extension and their children could spend more time here. He also said it would benefit farmers and companies such as Earthbound Farm who often experience worker shortages. March to October is not in line with the school year, so while the new bill allows children to stay in a school district for a nine-month school year, children in the Hollister Migrant Center would not have much of the school year available to them.
Caballero is also working on a bill to allow children of migrant workers to comply with state regulations requirements for high school graduation and not local requirements. This is the same requirement set for foster children and refugees.
“Migrant workers’ children have the same disadvantage as foster children and refugee children, we need to ensure they can graduate,” Caballero said.
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