February 14, 2003

Crisis continues between homeless farm workers and City of Carlsbad

By: America Barcelo Feldman

In what is starting to become an annual exercise, on January 6, 2003, the City of Carlsbad had hundreds of immigrant farm workers, workers for the Rancho Fresero Giuamarra in Carlsbad, thrown out of their homes from land that had housed migrant works for more than 20 years. This left dozens of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age homeless.

In January of 2002 the City of Carlsbad had about 30 farm workers, along with their families, thrown out of their homes Laguna de Agua Hedionda. They were thrown out after condominium owners and neighboring residents complained to Mayor Bud Lewis who gave the order to police to destroy the homes.

A reporter interviews one of the migrant workers in his makeshift home.

The growing shelter crisis has left these now homeless literally out in the cold. Carlsbad, for all its wealth, high-priced homes, tourist attractions and warm, sandy beaches, is a home without a roof to more than 700 people, homeless advocates say.

Migrants working the strawberry and flower fields every year are the city’s largest group of homeless, officials say. No firm numbers are available, but about 700 migrant laborers work in Carlsbad during planting and harvest seasons, according to the task force.

Many of them are in the country illegally and distrust government aid programs. They make minimum wage or less, not enough to afford housing, especially in this high-priced city where the average home price is $380,000.

So they stay in makeshift camps near the fields during planting and harvesting seasons, sending as much of their pay as they can back home to their families.

Although city officials said the camps were removed for sanitary reasons, activists called those claims bogus and said workers were not given alternatives for low-income housing.

United and ready to find a solution, several civil groups, supporting community members, humanitarians, and religious groups, have joined together to bring help not only directly to cover basic needs such as food, water, clothing, but also in raising their voices, for social justice for these people; to give them not only charity but also demanding human dignity.

Groups such as Ecumenical Migrant Outreach (EMOP), American Friends Service Committee, Franciscan Monastery of Santa Barbara Province, San Luis Rey Church of Oceanside, Saint Patrick Church and Pilgrim Christ Church of Carlsbad, among others, have conducted several protests against this injustice: “We believe that is a violation against human rights” Mark Day of EMOP said. In fact, people who hire and fire these workers are taking advantage of hard working people who are exploited and treated without human dignity.

Mark Day, an active member for EMOP commented “what’s happening with these poor people is simply a great injustice, regardless of what legal condition they are in, they have every right to be treated respectfully as people, they come from afar to make a decent living, and they work very hard to support their families back home, but instead they come here and are exploited and maltreated.”

Being fired and expelled is not a recent problem, there have been a lot of people who have suffered loosing their homes, and because of this and the lack of work they have been forced to build their own homes as best as they know how to survive as close as possible to their jobs. Because of the high cost of living these areas are less and less available and so they are forced to move. According to the government assistance office in San Diego they estimate there are 7,000 farm workers in North County without homes, this is an increasing problem.

Farm Workers labor add about $1.2 billion annually to the agricultural industry. This contributes directly to our economy because they are not lazy as many people think, these are people who work very hard, who in fact pay taxes because it’s deducted from their paychecks week after week.

There are other aspects that these humanitarian groups fight for, according to Attorney Dorothy Johnson from the Rural Assistance Office of California, “Rancho Giumarra of Carlsbad, doesn’t provide the established minimum wage by the law, and it doesn’t respect labored hours per day, and they don’t follow health and security regulations.” This is where we need to include Peter Mackauf General Manager of the ranch, he was one who participated in the firing process of the strawberry fields this past January 6, and in reference to this he told the San Diego Union Tribune (1/12/03) that: “Giumarra of Carlsbad is not obligated to provide refuge or any kind of place where these workers can stay. He even suggested that supporters of these workers to contact state and federal Government to find them homes.”

Seems very ironic that back in 1970 the owner of Viñedos Giumarra was one of the first owners to sign “The Grape Contract,” with the farm worker leader Cesar Chávez and the United Farm Workers Union, but with the younger generation, John Giumarra Jr., has forgotten the basic principles for social justice that inspired the fight for farm workers three decades ago.

It’s because of this that groups in favor of farm workers have raised their voices as a sign of protest to re-establish respect and dignity for their fights, who deserve to live as civilized people. It’s inadmissible for these people to live in these conditions, people who work so hard for this lucrative industry that receives thousand of dollars thanks to the very hard labor and it’s not fair that they forget or won’t recognize who are the ones who makes it happen,” added Day.

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