INTERSTATE MIGRATION AND ITS EFFECT ON CALIFORNIA
(Statement prepared by Jerry Voorhis for the consideration of a special subcommittee appointed by the California delegation in Congress. This statement was approved by the sub-committee, and then referred by the sub-committee to the President.)
The California Congressional delegation realizes fully that the economic problems of unemployment, low farm income, and the consequent uprooting of large numbers of people from their settled homes are common problems of all American that they can ultimately be solved only on a Nation-wide basis and through National effort.
Nevertheless, it is true that due to a variety of causes California has, in the past ten years, been the State into 7-hich the largest numbers of economically distressed people have moved and that therefore California is confronted with a unique and most difficult problem of assimilation of thousands of penniless newcomers who are now within her borders. The California State Department of Health has estimated that in 1937 some 100,000 persons in families, whose breadwinners were in immediate need: of employment, entered the State; that 100,000 came in 1938, and that 60,000 will come in 1939. A variety of reasons may be assigned for this decline---improved crop conditions in the "Dust Bowl" area, and a rather successful effort on the part of the Farm Placement Service and the Farm Security Administration to spread the in-formation that there are already several people for every available job in California, being probably the most important.
Nevertheless, during the week of January 21st upwards of 24,000 persons who have been in the State loss than one year were given relief in California by the Farm Security Administration and an additional 5,200 were fed by the State Relief Administration.
The conditions of life of these people are in many cases nothing short of deplorable. "Shack towns" have sprung up in all too many places in the San Joaquin Valley, where there are probably today some 25,000 living outside of any permanent dwelling, in tents, old boxes and every conceivable sort of improvised structure. These; people represent generally former farm families from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri, who seek day labor in agriculture in California.
In Los Angeles County and adjacent areas we find a situation somewhat less dramatic but equally serious. Here are found thousands of new comers to California, living, in many cases, in most primitive fashion and ready and willing, and eager, since in most cases they are ineligible for relief, of any sort, to take any sort of employment at almost any wages. These people represent not the migratory labor problem but the more general problem of large scale inter-state migration--a typically American phenomenon which has resulted, in this instance, as before, from the fact that Americans move to new places rather than accent defeat at home. It bears most heavily, nevertheless, on the wage-earners of California who stand not only to lose
their jobs to the newcomers, but to see their wage-standards destroyed as well.
In spite of a certain very vocal group of people in California who can think of no answer to this problem except to send or drive these people back to the state from which they came, the California delegation realizes that the problem cannot be solved in that way. We do believe that every effort should be made by Federal as well as State agencies to discourage, so far as possible, the further movement of large numbers of people into California. We believe Farm Security, U. S. Employment Service and other agencies can and should spread information about the fact that we now have about three workers for every available job in agriculture or other employment in California. We believe that everything that is now being done or that can be done to improve conditions in the states from which these people come is most desirable from our standpoint, and we propose to support such measures.
We know, nevertheless, that we probably have in the neighborhood of 150,000 to 250,000 more or less floating families in our State who will remain there from now on. And we know that in spite of anything that can be done, more people will come in the future.
We are ready to face our problem, and we ask your aid.
Generally our position is: First, that our California standards of old age pensions, of relief, of education, of wages, should not be sacrificed to our efforts to do our part io solve this great national problem; and Second, that in spite of the excellent work done by Farm Security and other Federal agencies, the Federal Government has so far not contributed its share to the solution of this great problem. California is ready to do its part in helping to resettle these homeless people. But California feels that inter-state migration is a National, not a local, problem and that in general the cost of necessary care for people who af present have no legal residence in any State should be borne by the Federal government.
The problem breaks down into the following component parts: employment, health, relief, housing, and education.
The employment problem cannot, of course, be solved overnight. But expansion of the Farm Placement Service to the point where migratory agricultural workers everywhere could be given accurate information concerning employment opportunities, or 1ack of them in other parts of the Nation would, we believe, be a great help. Furthermore, we hope that through Federal and State cooperation, the plan already explored by Farm Security of settling, people on small plots of land in regions where seasonable labor is available can be carried forward with increasing vigor. Ultimately the employment problem for California's surplus population waits, fo course, upon the revival of large-scale production in the industries of the Nation. Meanwhile, however, it would seem to us proper that WPA quotas be adjusted to some degree, at least, in accordance with the movement of people from State to State.
Health conditions among these newcomers to California are deplorable. Studies in the spring of 1938 revealed 18,000 cases of undernourishment among the migrant children. How many more there are now no one knows. In 1936 ninety per cent of all typhoid cases in the State of California occurred among rural migrants. Communicable diseases are hard to control for obivious reasons. Clearly, the health problem is intimately connected with low annual earnings, with sub-standard housing and the lack of adequate diet. From the standpoint of California communities theproblem is acute, to say the least. In Kern County, for example, an eight month period in 1938 showed that care of nonresidents caused a fifty three per cent increase in the case load of the General County Hospital. Facilities are simply inadequate to meet the situation and so are tax resources in many instances. Prejudice, and ill-will inevitably increase under these circumstances.
A start has been made in solving this problem by the organization of Agricultural Workers' Health and Medical Associations, through the cooperative action of the Farm Security Administration, the California Medical Association, and the California Public Health Service. This Agricultural Workers' Health and Medical Association issue certificates of membership to low income resident farmers, agricultural workers, and non-residents who cannot afford to pay for medical care. These certificates entitle them to obtain treatment from any one of a panel of cooperating doctors. While theoretically the people in receipt of such care and treatment may be asked to pay for it at some future time, the real fact is that the whole program has so far been carried on with a $100,000 grant made to the Association by the Farm Security Administration. More funds for this prupose would be one immediate way the Federal government could help.
Furthermore, since already the Federal camps for agricultural workers have been well established institutions in California, it is apparent that if clinics and emergency hospitals could be set up and operated in connection with them, with their services limited to treating the groups eligible to membership in the Health Association, it would greatly relieve the pressure on local medical and hospital facilities.
Most important of the health needs of California's transient population is a more adequate diet--especially for children. Farm Security has been giving relief to a certain percentage of these families, it is true, but especially in the case of the children, more food is a necessity. As an immediate measure we suggest the working out of a program whereby the Surplus Commodities Corporation would furnish,as nearly as possible, a balanced ration of foodstuffs to the State Relief Administration of California or to the Farm Security Administration for distri uticn to the undernousished people. California orange growers have already demonstrated a willingness to furnish almost unlimited quantities of oranges for this purpose if transportation and distribution can be taken care of. We consider this suggestion quite as much a health as a relief measure.
The relief problem, however, goes much further than the emergency furnishing of food--important and immediate as that is. Generally we reiterate that we believe the cost is properly a Federal responsibility although we prefer local administration. We feel that people who are unemployable when they arrive in our State and who have been necessarily dependent before they migrated to California should be assisted to return to the States of their former residence. For people who desire and are able to work the case differs. We suggest strongly a system of Federal grants-in-aid to States, probably through the Social Security Board, to defray the cost of relief extended to non-residents by the States or counties. Such a system should, obviously, be closely tied in with the Farm Placement Service work so that people will not remain on relief in one area when work is available elsewhore.
The housing problem has been met temporarily, at least, for a small percentage of the migrants by the Federal camps operated by the Farm Security Administration. Some of the California ranches have improved greatly the housing facilities provided by them. We believe there should be more such Federal camps, not alone in California, but in all sections of the Nation where migratory agricultural labor is an important factor.
However, the housing problem goes beyond the migratory agricultural worker group. We hope that through coopergtion between the State of California, the Farm Security Administration, the WPA, the U. S. Housing Authority, and local communities which are. Willing to help, a program of very low cost housing can be worked out which will furnish on a rental basis decent though very modest housing to replace the "Shacktowns" of which we have so many. We further urge homes on 1/2 and 1 acre tracts, provided by Federal aid, believing the occupants will be self-supporting and available for seasonal work.
One of the most serious problems has to do with the fact that many children of migratory families are growing up without the advantages of an American education. We admit there is prejudice against these children in may California districts, but when it is remembered that the school enrollment in many such districts has literally doubles in the past two or three years, due to the influx of people fromother states, we can understand the reason for this. We know of no existing Federal agency that can adequately care for this situation and that may be one reason why the California legislature has had under consideration a bill to appropriate $750,000 for the education of the children of migrant families. We wonder whether a plan could be devised for Federal-State cooperation in financing schools in connection with the Federal migrant camps. And we are hopeful that if a bill for Federal aid to education is passed, special provisions will be included for grants to states in proportion to the number of children of non-residents being educated in the States and at the expense of local taxpayers.