Soapbox

State must ready for deportation relief ruling

Tiny flags from various countries are for sale as thousands of demonstrators rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in support of President Obama’s executive actions on deportation relief.
Tiny flags from various countries are for sale as thousands of demonstrators rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in support of President Obama’s executive actions on deportation relief. McClatchy

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case with profound implications for immigrant families across the nation. In just a few months, the court could unfreeze the deportation relief programs that have been frustratingly stuck in limbo since early last year.

Such a decision could transform the lives of millions of Californians. One in five children in California have a parent who may qualify for the deportation relief programs – Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The state must do more to lay the groundwork now to support this powerful opportunity. Last year, California took an important step forward when the budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown included $15 million for immigrant integration through the “One California” proposal.

But last year’s level of funding represents a small fraction of the need for these services. More can and should be done for the more than 2.4 million immigrants eligible to become citizens and the more than 500,000 eligible for deportation relief. An additional 1 million would be eligible if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the deportation relief programs.

That is why the Legislature’s Latino and Asian Pacific Islander caucuses are partnering again to support $40 million for immigration services.

“One California” funds culturally appropriate education, outreach and application assistance for immigrants and their families. This money, administered by the Department of Social Services, is integral to helping our lawful permanent residents navigate the complex and costly citizenship process that is disproportionately leaving out the working poor. Services also support residents eligible to apply for the deportation relief programs.

Though the funding we are seeking would not completely meet the need, it would go a long way toward reducing disparities in access. This in turn would help improve economic mobility, civic potential and the quality of life for millions of immigrants. It also would serve to deter the reach of “notarios” and other unqualified individuals who defraud unsuspecting Californians seeking deportation relief.

With this investment, we also can significantly boost California’s economy. According to the White House, implementation of deferred action programs are estimated to generate as much as $27.5 billion for the state over the next 10 years. Additionally, a recent study by the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration shows that if half of our eligible residents were to naturalize, over the next 10 years California would see a total increase of $17.7 billion from immigrant earnings.

While the new deportation relief programs will still leave some out and we must do more to combat deportations, these programs represent a life-changing opportunity for many families. Our state is home to a richly diverse population of immigrants who contribute greatly to our culture and prosperity. Inclusive, common-sense investments that support them help us all move forward.

It is critical that California build on last year’s investments in One California and bolster support for immigration services so that we can advance shared prosperity for all.

Luis A. Alejo, a Salinas Democrat, represents the 30th Assembly District, is chairman of the California Latino Legislative Caucus and can be contacted at assemblymember.alejo@assembly.ca.gov.

David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, represents the 17th Assembly District, is a member of the California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and can be contacted at assemblymember.chiu@assembly.ca.gov.

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