California Expands Rights for Illegal Immigrants

October 23, 2019 Updated: October 23, 2019

Rights and protections for immigrants who have entered the country illegally have been expanded in the state of California as a result of several new bills recently signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

California is home to the most illegal aliens in the nation, with one in five illegal immigrants living in the state, according to Pew Research Center.

Approved on Oct. 12, SB-225 will allow California residents living in the U.S. illegally to be eligible for public service on local and state government boards and commissions.

“California doesn’t succeed in spite of our diversity — our state succeeds because of it,” Newsom said in a statement. “Citizenship should not be a barrier to consideration for appointment to boards and commissions in California.”

The governor went on to denounce the “federal administration’s assault on pathways to legal status and citizenship” as an obstruction blocking the opportunity of “many talented Californians.”

In an Assembly Floor Analysis, the author of the bill, Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), claimed that the legislation would guarantee that the “most diverse state in the nation upholds the values of democracy.”

“We cannot continue to let these outdated, discriminatory laws dictate how we run our state, and who gets a say in the decisions that impact all Californians,” she added.

An additional new law, AB-1645, will allow the state’s college student loan program to include those who were brought into the United States illegally as children, a group informally known as Dreamers.

While current legislation allows undergraduate Dreamers to attain school loans and in-state tuition, the most recent law will include those pursuing a graduate education at California State University and University of California schools.

According to Christopher Sanchez, a state policy advocate for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, “Undocumented students make up a significant population on our public college campuses. And they happen to have some of the most unique experiences as they navigate our college systems.”

Under the new legislation, every Dreamer will have the right to be paired with a Resource Liaison who will help the prospective student acquire financial assistance as well as other support services that will help exempt them from having to pay nonresident tuition.

“Having these resources will ensure that a student doesn’t have to delay their education because of inaccurate information,” Sanchez told The Epoch Times. “When classes require an internship, they can turn to someone who knows the process and knows which internships are available to them.”

Another new law prevents immigration agents from making civil arrests in courthouses across the state. Some have suggested that this law represents yet another attempt by the state of California to push back against the Trump Administration’s deportation policy.

The legislation was partially in response to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s arrest of a man in a Sacramento courthouse last year. The arrest sparked backlash from California’s Chief Justice, the ACLU, and immigrants’ rights activists, among others.

“Arrests that occur inside a state courthouse…are disruptive of courtroom proceedings,” Sacramento County Superior Court Presiding Judge David De Alba said in a statement at the time. “The fear of immigration arrest deters witnesses and crime victims from coming forward to participate in the prosecution of crimes.”

Newsom vetoed a second bill authored by Durazo that would have authorized the state attorney general to investigate any fatality that occurred in immigration detention centers.

In a statement issued afterward, Newsom said the state should focus on closing private, for-profit detention centers: “[That’s] the best way to address these injustices.”

According to the ACLU, there have been 13 recorded deaths in California detention centers in the last nine years.

Earlier this year, California became the first state to provide health care to illegal immigrants aged 25 and younger, impacting around 90,000 people. The state has already allowed those under 18 to receive government-subsidized health care since 2016.

“We are going to be a magnet that is going to further attract people to a state of California that’s willing to write a blank check to anyone that wants to come here,” said Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone, who opposed the legislation, at a May hearing. “We are doing a disservice to citizens who legally call California their home.”

California’s budget also provides millions of dollars a year to the One California program, which gives free legal assistance to all aliens, including those facing deportation.

According to the Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers 2017 report, for the estimated 12.5 million illegal immigrants living in the country, the resulting cost is a $116 billion burden on the national economy and taxpayers each year, after deducting the $19 billion in taxes paid by some of those illegal immigrants.

Masooma Haq contributed to this report.

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