Tuesday, 16 July 2024 21:26

Illegal immigration: California Democrats unveil far-reaching package of bills aimed at helping newcomers

Wednesday, 08 April 2015

SACRAMENTO -- Slamming the Republican Congress for dropping the ball on immigration reform, Democratic legislative leaders on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping package of bills that would dramatically expand protections for illegal immigrants far beyond what's offered by any other state.

The 10 pieces of legislation would offer state-subsidized health care coverage to the undocumented poor, make it illegal for businesses to discriminate against customers based on their immigration status or the language they speak, and make it harder for federal authorities to deport immigrants living here illegally.

Calling the bills a direct response to Congress' "intellectual laziness" and "lack of work ethic" on the issue, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said the legislation is needed because deficiencies in state law unfairly limit the potential of immigrants -- both those who are here legally and those who are not.

"Our food, our clothing, our music, art and technology -- these are industries central to California's advancement, and they're all driven by immigrants," the Los Angeles Democrat said at a Sacramento news conference at which he unveiled the legislative package on a stage packed with other Democrats and immigration reform advocates.

Taken together, the proposals solidify California's reputation as a national leader on immigration policy, political experts said Tuesday. But groups opposing illegal immigration vowed to fight the bills.

"These proposals are the latest in a seemingly endless set of legislation designed to make illegal immigration a more comfortable thing," said Joe Guzzardi, national media director for Californians for Population Stabilization. "People living in Mexico and Central America are only going to want to come here more."

The biggest hurdle, however, may prove to be the legislative package's price tag.

"Californians at this point are strongly inclined to support undocumented immigrants," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. But "they become less enthusiastic about supporting undocumented immigrants when it comes to writing checks."

Analyses on how much each bill would cost taxpayers have not yet been completed and may not be for another few weeks. But de León said he expects his colleagues to keep costs down and shape the measures in a way that "minimizes and avoids pressure on the general fund."

Other proposals included in the package would create an Office of New Americans to help guide immigrants through bureaucratic mazes, strengthen protections for immigrant workers, help immigrant victims of crime apply for special federal visas, and block disclosure of immigrant children's records to federal authorities.

Congress' efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation fell apart last year when conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives refused to back a deal, citing skepticism over President Barack Obama's willingness to enforce the rules.

GOP leaders in California, however, have been trying to rein in anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric in their caucus as they push to rebuild the California Republican Party -- which has lost much support in the two decades since the state party made cracking down on illegal immigration one of its top issues in the 1990s.

In a statement Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said the federal government's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform has unfairly shifted the burden to the states.

"We understand the burdens facing immigrants who want to go to work and raise their families in safe neighborhoods -- and the rationale behind these bills is admirable," Huff said.

Still, he pointed to the costs of the bills as a possible deal breaker. "Without money from Congress and President Obama, it will be very difficult and costly for California taxpayers to fund all of these bill proposals," he said.

A measure sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, that would expand health care coverage for illegal immigrants will likely cost the most.

Senate Bill 4 would allow illegal immigrants to purchase health insurance through Covered California, the state health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act, and offer Medi-Cal coverage to low-income immigrants who are undocumented.

Federal law bars anyone who is living in the country illegally from obtaining federal health care benefits. But Lara's bill would have the state pick up all the costs for expanding Medi-Cal for the undocumented and direct state officials to seek a federal waiver to allow immigrants to use Covered California to buy unsubsidized health insurance.

The proposal mirrors a bill Lara sponsored last year that failed in committee after the state estimated it would cost taxpayers at least $1.3 billion to implement. Lara staff's said the current version would cost much less than last year's bill because the plan would no longer offer subsidies to immigrants who purchase private insurance.

Lara also believes that the political dynamics will be different this time around because Democrats and Republicans are now working on immigration legislation together.

"We're currently spending $1.7 billion annually on emergency room care" for undocumented immigrants, Lara said. "Covering these families is doable."


Democratic leaders in Sacramento on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping package of bills aimed at expanding protections for illegal immigrants. The measures are:

SB 4, by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens "“ Expands health care coverage for illegal immigrants by enrolling some in MediCal and offering unsubsidized plans through the Covered California exchange to others.SB 10, by Lara "“ Establishes the California Office of New Americans to help guide immigrants through confusing bureaucracies.

SB 600, by Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento "“ Expands civil rights protections for illegal immigrants by making it unlawful for businesses to discriminate against them.

SB 674, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego "“ Ensures all immigrant victims of crimes are offered assistance applying for special federal visas.

AB 60, by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego "“ Protects illegal immigrants from attorneys who demand payments for services related to pending legislation.

AB 622, by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-West Covina "“ Strengthens state Labor Code protections for all workers by limiting misuse of E-Verify, a federal program designed to prevent the undocumented from gaining employment.

AB 899, by Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael "“ Protects immigrant children's records from unauthorized disclosure to federal immigration authorities

AB 900, by Levine "“ Aligns state law with federal law, allowing the maximum number of youth to receive humanitarian relief through special visas.

AB 1343, by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond "“ Helps illegal immigrants avoid detention and deportation by federal immigration authorities.

AB 1352, by Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, D-Stockton "“ Prevents immigrants who complete drug rehabilitation and other court-ordered programs from being detained or deported.

Source: Mercury News

Google+ Google+