AFFIRMING CALIFORNIA’S SENSIBLE AND HUMANE MIGRANT POLICIES

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AFFIRMING CALIFORNIA’S SENSIBLE AND HUMANE MIGRANT POLICIES

By E. Stanley Ukeni

The projections are that California is home to almost eleven (11) million immigrants. This is estimated to be about a quarter of the nation’s foreign-born population. According to the Center for Migration Studies, about 22% of California’s immigrant population are undocumented—a sizable number of which are migrants.

It has been estimated that several hundred thousand of California’s migrant population live between the Southern Ventura County border and the U.S.-Mexico border, in Southern California—making it the largest concentration of migrant population in the United States.

It’s no secret that over the years, successive Californian political leadership, both Democrats and Republicans, have grappled with how to effectively manage its burgeoning migrant population. The prescribed policies for addressing this intractable migrant issue have ranged from harsh detention and deportation policies to humane pro-migrant policies.

Since January 2016, PPIC has conducted four statewide surveys, asking Californians whether “there should be a way for (undocumented immigrants) to stay in the country legally; if certain requirements are met.” The outcome of each of the polls consistently indicates that 82% or more of the respondents have supported the idea.

Again, in January 2017, 65% of adults in California favored the idea of “California state and local governments, to protect the legal rights of undocumented immigrants residing in the State.”   

Finally heeding the desire of the majority of California’s electorate, the lawmakers in California have taken significant steps to help alleviate the burden on migrants forced, by the dysfunctional Federal immigration system in the United States, to wait for years to be granted legal status in the U.S.

In 2019, State lawmakers extended the rights and protections for immigrants who enter the country illegally. The legislative bills, which were signed into law by California governor, Gavin Newsom, include provisions that ban the arrests for immigration violations, in courthouses across the State.

This effort by the California legislature and the governor to adopt sensible and humane migrant policies, and to uphold migrants’ civil and labor rights, stands in sharp contrast to the policies of many State legislatures and governors across the country.

Continuing California’s commitment to the humane treatment of migrants, in September 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a suite of bills into law that expanded the State’s humane immigration policies, which establishes protections and support for immigrants.

One of the bills signed by California’s governor is aimed at protecting the health and safety of all immigrants—including undocumented migrants. The language of this particular bill includes a provision to clarify safety standards at detention facilities. This will help to ensure the rights and protections for unaccompanied undocumented minors and to enshrine protection for migrants under hate crime legislation.

With the series of bills that were passed by California’s state legislators and signed into law by the governor, in 2021, California now leads the nation with pro-immigration policies that include expanded access to higher education, expanded access to health care and public benefits, advancing protections for immigrant workers, supporting immigrant students through partnerships with school districts, improving opportunities for economic mobility and inclusion through access to drivers licenses and pro bono immigration services.

Indeed, California’s Comeback Plan makes historic investments in the State’s residents, irrespective of immigration status, by offering an additional $1000 in stimulus checks to undocumented families through the expanded Golden State Stimulus program in 2021; the largest renter assistance program in the country and more. The California Comeback Plan also enacted a first-in-the-nation expansion of Medi-Cal to undocumented Californians over 50 years old, providing them with much-needed access to critical health care.   

Having decidedly chosen this path of sensible and humane migrant policies, the current political leadership in California has opted to affirm our common humanity—one that every State should endeavor to emulate.

Message from Ayúdame Nonprofit:

As Mr. Ukeni’s article demonstrates, not all states are created equal for migrants. Therefore, the state-by-state destination guidance that we, at Ayúdame Nonprofit, provide to migrants is critical. We lend a hand to migrants who have been legally processed and left to wait in the asylum system for years. We enable them to live beyond the shadows; to transform and progress for the common good. With the guidance and assistance we provide, migrants who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society can and will avoid traps set by opportunists, and live a life with dignity. With our help, asylum seekers can help themselves, their families, and the American communities they live in. We must all stand together in this mission to create a better way forward.

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