CALEXICO, Calif. (Border Report) — Calexico Council member Raul Ureña is encouraging his city to set up two permanent campsites on city property to house farmworkers and the homeless.
The city, located about 120 miles east of San Diego on the southern border, had been supporting a site where about a dozen individuals have been living for the last three months. It sits at the corner of First Street and Andrade Avenue just north of the border barrier.
The campsite was set up by a local representative of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights on a city-owned parcel.
It consists of about a dozen tents and according to Ureña will remain in place until the federal government decides its fate.
Recently, the city of Calexico sold the land to the federal government, and, legally, it doesn’t control it anymore.
Ureña sees this as an opportunity to provide other transitional housing for farmworkers who can’t afford to pay rent on either side of the border or who simply prefer staying in the U.S. after working in the fields avoiding long border-crossing times.
“Sacrifices are being made by people on both sides,” Ureña said. “Rents are high in Mexicali now, and we know they are only getting higher here in the valley.”
Narciso Chavez, who lives in the camp now says without it, he doesn’t know where he would be.
“Rents cost anywhere from 8- to 900 dollars, it doesn’t leave anything for food, what are we going to eat, air?” Chavez said.
According to Ureña, men like Chavez and others typically wake up at 3 a.m. and head into town to wait for buses that ferry farm workers to fields around the Imperial Valley.
“These workers provide $2 billion into our area’s economy and in practical terms, if they can’t go to work, we don’t eat,” said Ureña.