Organizations support $20 million budget proposal for California’s immigrant community

A $20 million budget proposal to assist California’s immigrant community would be economically beneficial to the state, leaders of California community organizations say.

Under the proposal, ONE California, $20 million would be appropriated to the Department of Social Services to help lawful permanent residents obtain citizenship and undocumented immigrants who are eligible for deferred action programs. The department would grant funds to non-profits, community organizations and other qualified groups, which would provide outreach and education efforts, and application assistance to the immigrant community.

Proponents of the plan argue that the economy benefits when immigrants possess a more secure status. Among figures provided include that naturalization boosts earnings of new citizens by an average of 11 to 14 percent; similarly, figures released by the President’s Council of Economic advisers, which indicate executive actions on immigration would lift California’s GDP up to $27.5 billion throughout the next decade.

“We know that this $20 million will go a long way to develop that infrastructure for the millions of people that qualify for DACA and DAPA, and I think Los Angeles in California has the opportunity to become a model at the national level … to be the state and the city and the county that really values the importance of immigrants …” Martha Arevalo, executive director of Central American Resource Center, said Wednesday, May 13, at a press briefing about the proposal in Los Angeles.

Community leaders at the briefing discussed the current financial contributions of immigrants to the country and the state.

Jan Perry, general manager of the Economic and Workforce Development Department of the City of Los Angeles, called immigrants part of the population “that is just too big to fail.” She cited research indicating that Asian- and Latino-owned businesses combined employ more than 1.3 million people and take in sales and receipts worth $261 billion.

“You can see that without the determination and the drive of the immigrant workforce, our state would be in dire straits. We would not grow as fast as we have,” she said.

In 2012, 11.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States collectively paid $11.84 billion in state and local taxes, according to an April 16 report released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). The analysis states if President Barack Obama’s executive actions clear its current hurdles, it would increase state and local tax contributions; if all undocumented immigrants living in the United States are allowed to work and reside in the country legally, ITEP states state and local tax contributions would rise by $2.2 billion.

“Clearly the ONE California budget proposal is not a bailout, it’s a stimulus for California,” said Efrain Escobedo, Vice President of Civic Engagement and Public Policy. “It’s not really about just benefiting immigrants and just helping immigrants integrate into our state, it’s also helping our state, through what is still an economic recovery process, so it’s a smart investment where $20 million could potentially return billions of dollars back to the California economy.”

The California Immigrant Policy Center states that under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, 358,000 individuals are eligible; under the DACA expansion, an additional 98,000 would qualify; under the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, more than 1.1 million parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents would be eligible; and 2.48 million lawful permanent residents are eligible for citizenship.

“There’s a tremendous stigma attached to being undocumented,” said Carlos Amador, lead organizer at California Immigrant Policy Center. “And then having the barriers of language access really hinders people from applying for deferred action or moving forward to apply for citizenship. So this proposal … can really strategically target many of these communities with the experts in the field working hand-in-hand with these communities.”

Advocates of the proposal are currently talking to government leaders to ensure their opinions are heard during negotiations.

Among those backing ONE California is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who expressed his support in a letter to Sen. Holly Mitchell and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, chairs of budget subcommittees.

Garcetti wrote that California is home to nearly 4 million individuals who qualify for naturalization or deferred action and that nearly a third of them reside in the City of Los Angeles.

“Unfortunately, the current immigration and naturalization system is poorly funded,” he wrote. “Federal inaction compels states and local governments to take steps on behalf of its residents to place a patch on the current system and help eligible immigrants take full advance of their legal rights.”