Though the Federal government regulates immigration and naturalization overall, states can pass their own laws that protect (or deny) the rights of immigrants withing their borders. Some states, like Arizona, make life difficult for immigrants. But here in California, the state has passed a number of new laws that went into effect January 1, 2016 that will have a positive impact on immigrants.
Below is a list of new laws affecting immigrants in California, as reported in the LA Times:
- The state will spend $40 million to provide health coverage under the Medi-Cal program to children under age 19 who are not in the country legally. Children in California need the same rights and access to school and healthcare if they will succeed as adults, and kids should not be punished if they were brought here illegally.
- Law enforcement agencies must certify in writing when immigrants in the country illegally are helpful as witnesses in criminal investigations so that those involved can apply for a “U-visa” that prevents deportation of crime victims. Ten-thousand U-visas are issued nationwide each year. The law was pushed because some law enforcement officers refused to offer U-Visa documentation to immigrant crime victims. Fear of law enforcement and coming forward with information on crimes has kept many immigrants hiding in the shadows.
- Law enforcement agencies must by 2018 develop systems that would allow them to collect and report data on the people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter and the outcome. This will aid in tracking and discouraging racist and biased profiling by law enforcement.
- The word “alien” will be removed from California’s labor code to describe those not born in the United States. Aliens are from outer space, undocumented immigrants are people.
- Non-citizens in high school may serve as election poll workers. This will give kids more opportunities to volunteer and see our democracy in action.
These new laws will protect the rights of California immigrants, and should help their make their transition to permanent residency more safe and secure. California has a good (if recent) track record of protecting immigrants through policies, laws, and agencies. Tuition, healthcare, drivers licenses, legal and rights protections all extended to the state’s almost 3 million undocumented immigrants. Beyond the state level, several cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego have strong Sanctuary City laws protecting immigrants. We realize in California that immigration is a driver of the economy. Immigrants are people, but they are consumers, workers, students, and entrepreneurs that will help keep California on top of the world.