The State of California is leading the way on immigration reform while momentum for federal-level reform is slowly but surely building in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Within the last two weeks, California’s legislators have passed a series of laws that collectively protects the rights of the state’s estimated 2.6 million undocumented residents. The TRUST Act signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown curtails the state’s participation in the Secure Communities Program, a federal initiative that allows the Department of Homeland Security to access fingerprints taken by local police, to screen detained individuals for immigration status and to request that law enforcement agencies hold them if they’re found to be undocumented.
The new law limits deportations by forbidding police to detain anyone under Secure Communities or on the basis of an Immigration and Customs (ICE) hold unless the individual has been previously charged with certain serious felony crimes. Two additional pieces of legislation (AB 263 & AB 524) prevent retaliation and/or threats from employers to undocumented workers who are asserting their rights.
Education and the well-being of undocumented immigrants featured prominently in the legislation passed. For example, deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) participants were given the right to obtain a state ID, unemployment benefits, and state medical services. DACA recipients will also be eligible to receive in-state tuition, enabling many undocumented students to pursue higher education and a successful future.
Capping off this series of remarkable victories for immigration reform, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) broke ranks with his party and announced his support for H.R. 15, a bill introduced by the Democrats with many bipartisan elements of an immigration reform package. He called the bill a good solution and encouraged more Republicans and Democrats to join together and pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
We’re encouraged by the positive news on immigration reform coming out of California. We hope the California example can show the nation and Congress a way forward to creating a working immigration process. For more information and action opportunities around immigration reform, please visit http://lirs.org/cir/. To speak out for comprehensive immigration reform right away, please visit our Action Center.