California’s Immigration Update

This year, Farmworker Justice stated that nearly 11 million undocumented people are currently living in the country and are not seeking legal citizenship because of the high processing costs, and extreme eligibility requirements. Agricultural workers in particular represent a very high population of undocumented residents. According to the U.S. government, 80 percent of farm workers do not have the necessary documents to work and live in the U.S. legally. Therefore, the United States has begun the process of reforming old immigration laws in order to provide rights and protections to individuals and families who are essential to the country’s economy and food supply.

With this in mind, this year was supposed to be the year of widespread, comprehensive immigration reform in the United States, with President Barack Obama leading the way. Unfortunately, there has been delayed action among our nations leaders this year so states have taken the issue of immigration into their own hands. California is a State leading the way with passing legislation to better the lives of undocumented individuals in the state.

This summer, thousands of children left their homelands of Central America to seek refuge in the United States. This event sparked even more concern for immigration reform, with many politicians wanting to send them home, and others wanting them to stay to have a trial. President Obama called this a humanitarian crisis and urged Congress to approve a $3.7 billion spending bill to help the kids.

On Saturday, September ninth, the White House announced the delay of President Obama’s immigration reform deadline, which was met with severe backlash from activists around the nation. Now the nation must wait until after the November elections for reform. Many groups were outraged with this decision, the United Farm Workers said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” United We Dream said it is “another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community.” The Latino community in the United States feels let down and manipulated by many politicians who try to win their votes, then put their issues on the back-burner.

Many states, such as California, have taken immigration reform into their own hands. In August, Governor Brown met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto where the President thanked the California Governor for respecting immigrants “whether they have citizenship or not, whether they have legal status or not.” The President also said, “the government of Mexico has so much respect for what the government of California has done.” Recently, Governor Brown has signed legislation to allow illegal immigrants to obtain a drivers license and receive financial aid for universities. Much of this legislation aimed at making it easier for undocumented individuals to live in California were proposed and backed by the California Latino Legislative Caucus, whom have worked tirelessly to advocate and promote the Latino community in California.

While the state of California seems ahead of the nation with immigration, many activists are worried whether President Obama will ever make comprehensive immigration reform. Immigration could become one of the bigger topics in the November elections because of this delay by the President. Many legislators are upset with the lack of work and reform on a national level in regards to immigration. Responding to President Obama’s decision to delay his self-imposed deadline for executive action on immigration, California Latino Legislative Caucus Chair Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach) released the following statement:

“While it’s unfortunate that the White House has once again broken its promise and delayed its self-imposed deadline to take executive action on immigration relief, California is moving forward. We continue to pass legislation with bipartisan support aimed at integrating our immigrant communities by expanding access to education, driver’s licenses, professional licenses, health care and ensuring Californians are treated with dignity and respect by passing the TRUST ACT. We will continue our work because every day without Comprehensive Immigration Reform means millions of families are at risk of separation. California will continue to serve as a model for the nation to follow absent federal leadership.”

The future of immigration reform is unknown at this point but many are speculating that the issue will be a hot topic for elections in 2016. Many also believe Hispanic voters in California will be pivotal for reform in 2016. La Voz will make efforts to periodically inform our readers on updates for immigration reform in America. For more resources on updates for immigration reform contact the Farmworker Justice office at www.farmworkerjustice.org or (202) 293-5420.