The state of California is often the frontrunner in terms of enacting immigrant-friendly policies, paving the way for the rest of the country to follow its lead and provide foreign nationals with access to critical services such as in-state tuition, driver’s licenses, and state-funded healthcare for children. Just this past Monday, California has broken new ground with its most recent policy change aimed at helping foreign nationals. The state legislature passed a new bill that will remove the word “alien” from the state’s labor laws.
The California Package
The state’s many immigration-related policies have become collectively known as the California Package. The numerous rights, benefits, and protections afforded to foreign nationals in this state are sometimes referred to as California citizenship. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, these changes in the state’s laws and policies have been met with very little – if any – political challenge or backlash from California Republicans. According to one Republican strategist, state-level politics carry different considerations from federal-level politics, which is why the state lawmakers tend to not take ideological stands in the face of mounting home-grown and local support.
In addition to these real victories, there have been symbolic ones as well. For example, Governor Jerry Brown has already appointed many non-U.S. citizens to hold positions in state departments and agencies.
The California legislature points to Congress’ own inaction on comprehensive immigration reform as its inspiration for implementing these policies on the state level. However, the lawmakers point out that they can only do so much to help their undocumented foreign national residents because the residents’ immigration status can only be changed by Congress.
More Friendly Policies on the Way
The state’s lawmakers plan on passing even more laws and protections, such as upping the penalties on employers who withhold pay from low-wage undocumented foreign national workers and expanding the eligibility for state-funded healthcare to adult undocumented foreign nationals.
Moreover, taking its cues from California, Connecticut is also moving in the similar direction of enacting immigrant-friendly state laws. Connecticut has already extended eligibility for in-state tuition and driver’s licenses to its undocumented population, and it recently passed a law called the Trust Act to limit deportations.
Obstacles to Expanding the California Package
Although the news coming out of California continues to be positive, it must be pointed out that these policies may be in jeopardy. The recent tragic killing of Ms. Kathryn Steinle, a resident of San Francisco, may put the immigration-friendly policies in danger of repeal because her accused killer was an undocumented foreign national who had previously been deported and then allowed to remain in the United States. Ms. Steinle’s death has ignited a wave of anti-immigrant discourse, with proposals being made to Congress calling for the federal government to come down harder on sanctuary cities.
California continues to be the fountainhead of immigrant-friendly policies, and the state and its citizens have no doubt reaped the benefits of welcoming foreign nationals into their communities and businesses. Continue to check our blog for more information on the latest immigration developments.
More Blog Posts
The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012