Friday, September 29, 2023
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California Strikes a Blow for Immigrants

SACRAMENTO (CN) - California's Democratic leaders introduced a group of bills Tuesday that would increase benefits for undocumented immigrants, and called for the state to take the national lead on immigration issues.

The state's majority party leaders unveiled 10 separate proposals, including access to Medi-Cal for undocumented immigrants and strengthened protections for immigrant workers.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said California's history and culture was built on "the backs of settlers," and the proposals represent the state's commitment to immigrants.

"Today we remind the rest of the nation that California is different: We respect immigrants and recognize the contributions that they have made to this state from the very beginning," de Leon said.

Lawmakers call the package "Immigrants Shape California," and introduced the legislation during a press conference at the Capitol, flanked by immigrant workers and children living in the state without papers.

The speakers said California must continue to set an example for immigration policy, as Washington continues to shuffle its feet on the controversial issue.

"With Congress' failure to pass immigration reform and many leaders doubling down on anti-immigrant policies that further target and marginalize immigrants, there is no greater time for the California State Senate and Assembly to again show its steadfast commitment to passing reforms California's immigrants desperately need," said Angie Junck, attorney for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

For the second year in a row, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is introducing legislation to extend Medi-Cal coverage to low-income immigrants.

State Bill 4 would give undocumented immigrants access to medical care through the California Health Benefit Exchange. Lara's previous bill was hindered by a $1.3 billion price tag.

Lara was unable to give a definitive answer on the source of funding for the Medi-Cal expansion proposal, but estimated the cost to taxpayers to be between $400 million and $800 million.

California is home to more than 10 million immigrants, more than any other state. According to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, 27 percent of immigrants in the state are undocumented and 80 percent are adults.

In January, California implemented a program allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses; the state has received more than 500,000 applicants. The state recently introduced programs to fund college tuition for undocumented immigrants as well.

The "Immigrants Shape California" package is further proof of the state's commitment to immigrants, de Leon said.

"We have provided drivers licenses for the undocumented, stronger labor laws for immigrant workers, in-state tuition and financial aid for dreamers, protection from unjust deportation and the list goes on, and California is better for it," de Leon said.

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