California Leads the Way on Immigrant Rights

Since early 2013, Chinese for Affirmative Action has worked with allies in the Bay Area, statewide, and nationally to push for immigration reform that provides an inclusive pathway to citizenship, keeps families together, and protects worker and civil rights.  In June, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill (one that the President said he would sign), yet Republicans in the House of Representatives have been stalling.  House Republicans have introduced their own piecemeal bills focused on criminalizing immigrants and unnecessarily increasing border enforcement.

As our congressional leaders continue to block meaningful immigration reform, CAA has worked with our allies to secure important immigrant rights victories at the state and local levels.

In San Francisco, Supervisor John Avalos successfully championed the Due Process for All Ordinance, which halts harmful detention practices and collaboration between local police and Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE).  The former police/ICE collaboration was fundamentally discriminatory and caused the needless separation of families.  The ordinance enhances public safety by making it safer for immigrants to report crime.

California sent a strong message to the federal government with a wave of immigrant rights victories at the state level.  After previously being vetoed, the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was signed into law this year.  This law provides overtime pay to approximately 200,000 domestic workers — the overwhelming majority of whom are immigrant women — who care for our children, our seniors, and our homes.  Our office will continue to advocate for additional labor protections (many of them basic provisions we take for granted) that should have been included in the bill that was just signed.

In the same legislative term, the California Legislature passed, and Governor Brown signed, the TRUST Act.  Similar to the San Francisco Due Process policy, the state law clarifies when local law enforcement can cooperate with ICE.  The net effect will be to focus local and state resources on preventing crime rather than the detention and deportation of immigrants who pose no threat to public safety.

Lastly, despite some privacy and profiling concerns that need to be addressed, California passed new legislation to once again make driver’s licenses available to all Californians, regardless of immigration status.  The law marks historic progress towards the fair treatment of all immigrants.  These positive developments help create a reality that recognizes the rights of immigrants, even while we still demand that Congress moves immigration reform legislation that is fair, just, and compassionate.

We’ve made some great advances for immigrants’ rights in California—let’s keep the movement going.