THE BLOG
10/28/2015 07:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Immigrants Shape California

One of the most popular features on social media is #TBT "Throw Back Thursday" when posters share funny or poignant blasts from their pasts. Last Thursday, we had a very different blast from the past when former Governor Pete Wilson told an audience in Orange County that he would "absolutely" advance anti-immigrant Proposition 187 all over again.

Fortunately, even though there may still be pockets of immigrant bashing in California government, though not nearly what we see from Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail, that is countered by the positive steps the Legislature and Governor have taken to help immigrants in our state.

This year, State Senate President Kevin De León and I announced a 10-piece package of legislation -- The Immigrants Shape California Package -- designed to protect immigrants, provide increased opportunity and advance the principle of justice for all. I am proud to report 9 of those bills were signed into law by Governor Brown, while one was resolved as part of the state budget we passed in June.

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Thanks to this legislation, authored by both Assemblymembers and Senators, Californians will soon see:

  • An Office of New Americans in the Governor's office to offer a comprehensive one-stop shop on immigration issues (SB 10 by Sen. Lara).
  • Health care for all children, regardless of immigration status (2015-16 State Budget).
  • Labor Code regulations preventing exploitation by unscrupulous employers (AB 622 by Asm. Hernández).
  • Civil rights protections for immigrants to prevent discrimination (SB 600 by Sen. Pan).
  • Protections against immigration services fraud (AB 60 by Asm. Gonzalez).
  • Guarantees that immigrant crime victims can apply for Victim of Crime Visas if they are helpful in investigating or prosecuting the crime (SB 674 by Sen. De León and Speaker Atkins).
  • Safeguards to prevent the unauthorized release of immigrant children's records (AB 899 by Asm. Levine).
  • Requirements that both defense and prosecution counsel consider potential detention and deportation consequences for immigrant defendants (AB 1343 by Asm. Thurmond).
  • Changes to California law to allow maximum number of youth to receive humanitarian relief through the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status visa (AB 900 by Asm. Levine).
  • The removal of immigration consequences that prevent immigrant offenders from participating in drug court-ordered rehabilitation programs.

These new laws are fitting and just. They show that here in California, we recognize our state has been shaped by immigrants of many different ethnicities, cultures and experiences and that immigrants are our neighbors, friends and family.

We also know that immigrants play a huge economic role in our state, comprising nearly 10 percent of the state's workforce and contributing $130 billion to our economy. According to the latest information from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, in 2010, undocumented immigrants in California paid $2.2 billion in state and local taxes, including $1.8 billion in sales taxes, $152.1 million in state income taxes and $302.8 million in property taxes.

The dysfunction in Congress means that the hope for real progress on comprehensive immigration reform is dwindling. So, wherever we can, the California Legislature has to step up to the plate. And fortunately, elected officials who still see Proposition 187 as a good thing are very, very rare.

Every year many bill packages are introduced in the Legislature. Very few go 10 for 10. The fact that The Immigrants Shape California package did says a lot -- about how important immigrants are to the fabric of our state and about how well today's elected officials understand that.