Since the summer of 2012, the members of Congress have been unable to come to an agreement on nearly anything related to comprehensive immigration reform. While the nation as a whole continues to wait for the federal government to get its act together, a number of states have decided to take matters into their own hands and pass immigration policies that have greatly benefited their respective communities and economies. In particular, the state of California has made efforts to encourage the integration of foreign nationals through a number of laws that are collectively referred to as the California Package.
The California Package
Since 2001 and continuing to the present, California has passed nearly two dozen laws that deal with the integration of foreign nationals in some way or another. Just this month, the state made the decision to expand its healthcare access to cover all undocumented foreign national children and also set aside more state funds to assist lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who are applying for U.S. citizenship through a process called naturalization.
Additionally, in order to qualify for in-state tuition colleges and universities do not look to an applicant’s immigration status at all. Instead, they evaluate the number of years the applicant has been in the California public school system. Moreover, just last year California also passed a law that required all of the state’s professional licensing boards to consider all applicants for admission – without regard to their immigration status. And it need hardly be stated that California also allows all of its residents to apply for driver’s licenses.
What makes the California Package truly unique is that the state government is in effect granting rights to foreign nationals that are not provided by the federal government, and in doing so it is purposefully blurring the lines arbitrarily drawn between citizens, foreign nationals who are in the U.S. with authorization such as green cards, and undocumented foreign nationals.
How California May Change Immigration at the Federal Level
The implementation of the California Package has been compared to the creation of a system for state citizenship. While in recent years the main focus of immigration law has been on how it is reserved to the federal government to write and execute, that was not always the case in this country. Between the 1850s and the early 1900s, many states even permitted noncitizens to vote, and not only in local elections but also those at the federal and state level. As long as the noncitizens declared that they intended to become U.S. citizens, they were allowed to cast a ballot.
Hopefully Congress begins looking to California for inspiration on how to finally move forward with comprehensive immigration reform. The state’s policies would serve as terrific models for federal laws.
The state of California is rightfully making headlines as it continues to be one of the most immigrant-friendly places in the entire country. In turn, those foreign nationals who flock to an area that welcomes them have greatly contributed to the state’s economy and its communities. Congress would do well to take the lead from California on this critically important issue. Continue to check back with the blog for the most up to date immigration news.
Additional Blog Posts
The Possible Impact of Sequestration for Employers and Immigrant Workers, ImmigRantings, April 22, 2013
More States Expected to Exert Control Regarding Illegal Immigration Problems, ImmigRantings, August 3, 2013