More from the series
The California Influencers Series
When it comes to addressing illegal immigration, California Influencers had plenty to say about what their state should prioritize:
On California vs. Washington, D.C.:
Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator, 1993-2017
“Immigration is about America and America is about immigration. Unless we are 100 percent Native American we have, somewhere in our background, a brave, smart ancestor who led the way for us. Immigration should be celebrated, not vilified, and we need an immigration system that is fair.
“On that, the federal government has failed because of leaders like President Trump and his followers in Congress who are shamefully using it as a whipping boy to divide Americans. Because of that, it is clear that California officeholders at all levels, should be leading voices in this sometimes alarming debate. That’s what leadership is.
“Our state... the dynamic, diverse success story should be the immigration truth-teller. Criminal immigrants should be deported. Peaceful asylum seekers should have their rights. Dreamers should be legalized. Babies and children who came with their families must be with their families. Always. ICE has lost its way as it turns away from deporting the dangerous to hunting down loving family members of legal immigrants.
“I look forward to our nominees for governor and lieutenant governor speaking out as clearly as my mom, who came to America in 1911 and who told me over and over... ‘kiss the ground of America because in America anything is possible.’”
Pete Wilson, Governor of California, 1991-1999
“Tragically, many illegal immigrants die trying to come to the freedom and opportunity of the United States. They are subjected to brutality by smugglers and human traffickers who prey on them and their children — not just at the border but every step of the way, and even after their illegal entry.
“Do I sympathize with illegal immigrants struggling to come to a better life for their families in America? Of course I do, but America simply cannot permit unregulated immigration and open borders. There are millions more worldwide whose lives in their home countries make them eager to come here illegally. No nation can survive ongoing massive illegal immigration, and continue to ensure the economic security and public safety of its citizens. Those seeking to come to the United States can and must do it the right way, like the waves of legal immigrants who were our forebears.
“Congress is inexcusably late in acting to cure its decades of neglect. The cost to our citizens and nation, to those who have legally immigrated — and even those attempting to come here illegally — are simply too high. If Congress does not act, it’s time to elect members who will.”
Eloy Oakley, Chancellor of California Community Colleges
“The top priority needs to be to motivate the California congressional delegation to push for comprehensive immigration reform. Band-aid solutions do not do justice to the thousands of Californians that remain in limbo because of the lack of action on the part of Congress.”
Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice
“We should seek to invalidate inhumane and unlawful federal immigration policies through our courts, and encourage our state policymakers to advance measures that counteract these policies as well as create a welcoming and inclusive state for all of our residents, including immigrant communities.”
Jim Boren, Executive Director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust; Former Executive Editor of The Fresno Bee
“Because politics won’t allow us to get a comprehensive immigration solution, we must work on the issues on a piecemeal basis. California’s representatives in Congress must push for a permanent solution for Dreamers, find an effective compromise that ensures border security, create a labor program for industries that need foreign workers, reform the legal immigration system, focus enforcement on the illegal immigrants who have serious criminal records, bring the remaining unauthorized immigrants out of the shadows and give them a path to legal status. California government officials at every level should be supporting common sense immigration solutions.”
Ron George, Former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court
“I believe that the top priority for California lawmakers on immigration-related issues should be to provide clarification and guidance to state and local officials concerning the actions they are and are not permitted to take in exercising their responsibilities, given the constitutional and statutory division of authority between federal and state government in this area.”
Madeleine Brand, Radio host with KCRW Los Angeles
“Well, there’s only so much state lawmakers can do. The real solution lies in Washington. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is in a position to do a lot. He and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could sit down and work on an agreement that would be palatable to their caucuses. It’s a tall order because the Republicans in the House are not unified on immigration reforms, but the two sides need to at least begin having serious conversations.”
Chet Hewitt, President and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation
“California should continue to lead states’ resistance against immoral, shameful and harmful immigration policy created by unilateral administrative action. The top priority here is straightforward, protect residents and businesses that call California home and contribute to our economic and cultural well-being until Congress is able to pass comprehensive, humane and rational immigration reform that is responsive to the social and economic realities we face.”
Kristin Olsen, Former minority leader in the California Assembly, and Stanislaus County Supervisor
“California lawmakers’ top priority on immigration should be to strongly urge their congressional colleagues to pass immigration reform that effectively secures the borders, protects Dreamers, provides a streamlined and effective worker program for both agriculture and technology, and provides a clear, affordable, legal way for undocumented individuals to achieve legal status and ultimately citizenship. The blaming, excuses, and stagnation on both sides needs to stop; it’s way past time for reasonable solutions to move forward.”
Monica Lozano, President and CEO of College Futures Foundation
“The Trump Administration’s assault on immigrants has been characterized by a complete misrepresentation of facts and demonization of entire communities. The heartless separation of children from parents, the elimination of long-standing legal protections, and curtailing of legal migration into the U.S. fly in the face of what our country has stood for and the values of this democracy. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants are working, starting businesses and paying billions in taxes every year. California’s legislators should continue to focus on three overarching goals: protection of its immigrant residents against the exploitation and abuse of power; the enforcement of state laws that support and protect immigrant communities; and immigrant integration policies that promote full participation in civic society. California is home to more immigrants that any state in the nation and we have led the way in holding firm against efforts to roll back their constitutional protections. It is more urgent now than ever.”
Jim Newton, Lecturer of Public Policy at University of California, Los Angeles
“California should establish itself as a counterpoint to Washington — welcoming, inclusive and appreciative of immigrants, legal and illegal. That means providing services regardless of immigration status and allowing immigrants to interact with law enforcement without fear of deportation.”
Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director of California Nurses Association
“’Zero tolerance’ immigration policy violates family values, nurses’ values, and basic human rights. So the top priority should be a plan to end zero tolerance, which is a public health crisis, and reunite families immediately. Toxic stress can lead to a lifetime of negative health impacts for children experiencing prolonged separation from trusted caregivers. The health of child and adult detainees, who in legally seeking asylum are being incarcerated in violation of our own laws, is also concerning given that they may already have underlying health issues from their stressful journey to the U.S., as well as from experiencing poverty and violence in their home countries. The crowded conditions in which they are kept also increase the risk of infectious diseases, as we have seen in reports that immigrants held at a Victorville penitentiary are suffering from a chicken pox and scabies outbreak.
“Nurses make an oath to care for all patients, regardless of background, and many nurses across America are immigrants, or the children of immigrants. We urge state lawmakers to do everything in their power to put an end to the inhumane treatment of our patients who simply came here seeking health and safety for their families.
Kim Yamasaki, Executive Director of Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment
“California lawmakers should most immediately prioritize assisting in the reunification of families separated as a result of the Trump Administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy. The current administration continues to promote a demonizing vision of all immigrants as ‘dangerous’ and has stripped hundreds of migrant children away from their families only to be sheltered in cages and other inhumane conditions. This is consistent with our country’s poor history of racial intolerance — only 76 years ago, 120,000 Japanese Americans were sent to concentration camps at the onset of WWII.
“My grandfather was sent to one of these camps as a young boy. The harsh living conditions of these camps negatively impacted him for the rest of his life. We cannot allow this kind of history to repeat itself. We need to ensure that immigration policy is not made at the expense of an individual’s most fundamental human rights. 10 million+ Californians come from immigrant backgrounds. Nearly 1 in 10 of our workers are undocumented. We have a responsibility to uphold the public safety and general welfare of all living within our state — undocumented included.”
Sal Russo, Co-founder of Tea Party Express
“Our current federal immigration policies are a disaster, and there should be universal agreement across the political spectrum on that point. The states play a minor role in immigration policy, which is largely preempted by federal law. California politicians can best serve their constituents by climbing down from their soap boxes and stop pretending that they can actually solve the immigration problem. Their best course would be to lower their rhetoric from the wild extremism on both sides and restore a civil debate on a serious national problem that needs immediate addressing for economic, moral and social imperatives.”
Andrea Ambriz, Chief of Staff for Service Employees International Union Local 2015
“California lawmakers must continue to serve as strong advocates in defense of the rights of all Californians, regardless of legal status. This includes calling for the immediate halt to the forced separation of immigrant families, and demanding that the federal government uphold the rights of immigrants through laws and decisions made in a legal court, specifically that which requires minors to be released from detention “without unnecessary delay,” as determined in the Flores v. Reno settlement.
“Lawmakers must also continue supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows the children of undocumented immigrants, who came to the United States through no choice of their own, to avoid deportation. The cruel and inhumane approach that our current federal government Administration has taken to incite fear in immigrant communities across the United States by literally ripping children out of the hands of their families or deporting young people is appalling and against the very values of our nation — it’s un-American at its core. Article 1 of our California constitution clearly states that “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights.” Therefore, our California lawmakers have a duty to ensure that laws are unequivocally upheld and that the rights of every Californian are defended and championed.
“We need to focus on the need to create a legitimate path of citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants living and contributing to our country, not waste time, legal battles, and money on fighting against an Administration’s inability to adequately create positive and effective policy change and growth for our country. If this federal government Administration can’t be American, then let’s demand our state lawmakers be Californian and fight for the life and liberty of all people, including our immigrant brothers and sisters.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law
“Right now, it must be resisting the Trump administration’s immigration policies. California has taken important steps through legislation (recently upheld by Judge Mendez), litigation (such as challenging the repeal of DACA), and advocacy.”
David Townsend, Founder of TCT Public Affairs
“Illegal immigrants who are already in our country and are productive hard working contributors to our society should be given a path to citizenship. No individual should be denied health care because of their citizenship status. These are not just California values, these are human values. We must stand up against the horrific separation of families at our border. We are better than this.”
Michele Siquieros, President of Campaign for College Opportunity
“Congress members should lead efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Our state policymakers and Governor should continue efforts to resist the Trump Administrations demonization of immigrants and to legally challenge where constitutional and state rights are being violated. Latinos in California are critical to the future of our state, breaking up families (many of whom are mixed status) does not help anyone.”
Curt Pringle, Former Assembly Speaker, and Founder of Curt Pringle & Associates public relations
“Immigration is a federal issue. All sides of the political divide say so, but only when saying so is convenient to or advances their individual political position. But indeed immigration is a federal issue, and state officials should not detract from or undercut these federal government efforts.”
On economic impact:
Carl Guardino, President and CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group
“For 242 years, the American experiment we all cherish was built on the brains, and often on the backs, of immigrants. This is especially true when viewing Silicon Valley and America’s Innovation Economy, in which half of today’s Innovation Economy companies have a foreign-born CEO or founder; and 53 of every 100 engineers fueling our Silicon Valley Innovation Economy were not blessed to be born in the United States. California lawmakers need to press for Comprehensive Immigration Reform: High-Tech, Low-Tech or No-Tech.”
Angie Wei, Chief of Staff of California Labor Federation
“Immigrant workers are the backbone of our state’s economy. As such, we must make sure our state’s worker protections are vigorously enforced to guarantee that immigrant workers aren’t exploited and retaliated against. We must, as a state, take the lead in fighting for a path to citizenship for our residents.”
Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President of The California Endowment
“California’s recognition of immigrants as a force of good has coincided with our state’s rise to fifth largest economy in the world surpassing Great Britain. Immigrants comprise a third of the workforce fueling that economic surge. Immigrants contribute billions every year in local and state taxes. So every resident of California should have access to good health coverage. Every laborer should have workplace protections and safety. And those threatened with removal from our state should have legal representation and due process.”
Dorothy Rothrock, President of California Manufacturers & Technology Association
“Immigration matters to employers because they need skilled workers and clear rules for hiring. Lawmakers shouldn’t let employers be caught in the middle if the state disagrees with federal immigration policies.”
Matt Barreto, Professor of Chicano Studies at UCLA; Co-founder of Latino Decisions
“Policymakers should focus on ways to promote immigrant incorporation in California. Every facet of our state economy is supported by immigrants, and immigrant contributions to California make our economy stronger. Our state should promote policies that encourage immigrants to be active participants in our social, economic, and civil sectors.”
Allan Zaremberg, President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce
“Approximately 1.85 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to be working in California — approximately one in 10 workers in California is undocumented. Many of these individuals have developed roots here, leaving little incentive to return to their country of origin. CalChamber has advocated for years that the only solution is a united congressional strategy to support a comprehensive national program that addresses border security, temporary worker programs, employment verification and enforcement, as well as a path to legal status. If our congressional delegation can’t get together and agree on a solution in a state where immigration reform is more consequential than anywhere else, how can we expect other states to agree?”
Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of Bay Area Council
“California legislators — Republican and Democrat — must loudly and with one voice demand that their federal counterparts pass long overdue comprehensive immigration reform. California’s economy is the powerhouse it is today in large part because of the invaluable contributions immigrants have made to our state from its very beginning, across industries and at all skill and education levels. Immigrants fill key positions in industries and jobs where there is a dearth of U.S. workers, and they are starting new companies here that employ U.S. workers. We need to lift the restrictive caps on skilled worker visas and green cards and pair that with reforms to ensure foreign workers are not competing with U.S. workers for jobs. We need a new special visa specifically for entrepreneurs who come here to create companies. And we need a sensible and humane path forward for Dreamers and the many other immigrants here already who are working and contributing to our communities.”
Cesar Diaz, Legislative and Political Director of State Building and Construction Trades Council
“Since California can’t change federal immigration laws, the best way to advocate for the immigrant community is to strengthen workers’ rights. Immigrant workers contribute greatly to our economy and suffer when their rights as workers are revoked due to immigration status. These workers are already abused in the underground economy, which not only harms workers, but also law abiding businesses and state and local budgets. Lawmakers should protect the rights of all workers as they are struggling to achieve the American dream.”
On policy prescriptions:
Mike Madrid, Principal of Grassroots Lab
“The solution to undocumented immigration is fundamentally an economic problem in Mexico — it is also an opportunity. The U.S. government needs to leverage the Mexican government to liberalize private property protections and encourage foreign investment. By building a middle class in Mexico we can severely limit illegal immigration, but this can only happen if there is economic reform with our southern neighbor. So long as great wealth disparities exist, we will always have people coming to find greater economic opportunities.”
Rob Stutzman, Founder & President of Stutzman Public Affairs
“Obviously the state has little to no real authority on immigration, as it’s a federal issue. Lawmakers could best serve California by becoming better proponents of legal immigration, which is critical for California’s economy from high-skilled to seasonal agricultural workers. Years of federal failure to pass reform have created a myriad of problems for legal immigrant workers and those who would be legal workers if the Feds had ever created a regimen for guest workers. Lawmakers should focus on policies that support those workers and encourages federal solutions.”
Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California
“Should DACA either be allowed to lapse by Congress or if the courts ultimately allow Trump’s rescission of the program to stand, current DACA students will lose their work authorization. Plus, there are many undocumented students who are not in DACA. The legislature should provide funding to replace these lost wages so that these deserving students can remain in school.”
Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO of California Community Foundation
“Protecting immigrants from ICE, increase citizenship applicants.”
Timothy White, Chancellor of the California State University
“I believe the top priority for California’s lawmakers should be to continue their support of DACA recipients and Dreamers. I have been pleased with the support given so far. Indeed, California has shown that — instead of unfairly demonizing or blaming immigration for myriad problems — we should encourage all those willing to work hard to contribute to the state’s economy and society.”
Renata Simril, President and CEO of LA84 Foundation
“Within the immediate context of our immigration battle, family reunification and detention must be our top focus and first priority. As a mother, I cannot fathom the hundreds, maybe thousands of infants and toddlers crying themselves to sleep at night. Protecting all kids and families, as well as protecting human rights is fundamental to our morality. We cannot and should not lose focus and the Attorney General should continue to exhaust all legal remedies as he has been doing. Secondarily, California lawmakers should continue to push for resolution on DACA and a permanent path of citizenship.”
Catherine Lew, Principal and Co-Founder of The Lew Edwards Group
“Make Compassion Great Again! With the exception of Native Americans, we are an entire nation of immigrants but have seen open xenophobia and scapegoating rise dramatically. California lawmakers from all persuasions should be setting the example and leading the way for our state and the nation in recognizing the significant economic and social contributions of our diverse constituencies, including immigrants.
“1) DREAMers brought to our country at a young age who are on a path to college or military service need an avenue to legal citizenship.
2) Provide equal access to education for all.
3) Support our California economy and workforce — particularly important for our technology, farming and wine industries, all of whom have suffered labor shortages over the last two years. The civil and labor rights of immigrants must be maintained and upheld. California employers and farmers must be able to hire a legal labor force to continue to compete globally.”
Manuel Pastor, Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California
“The immigration field is wracked by polarization and misinformation. Here’s the data: about a quarter of Californians are foreign-born and roughly half of our children have at least one immigrant parent. Among all states, California has the most settled immigrant population in terms of years since arrival; indeed, even our undocumented population is deeply rooted, with around sixty percent having lived in the country for more than ten years. And while we as a state were once receiving about half of all newcomers to America, that has changed: the share of the foreign-born in the state is quite stable and has been for years.
“All this – particularly the tapering of inflows – suggests that the task of the state is not managing immigration but facilitating immigrant integration. This means encouraging naturalization among those who are eligible to become citizens, redesigning workforce systems — including English for adults and small business skills — to encourage immigrant economic mobility, and ensuring an education system so that the children of immigrants – about ninety percent of whom are U.S.-born – can succeed. It also means accepting the reality that we have the highest share of any state of mixed-status families – that is, households with at least one undocumented family member where others are either U.S. citizens or holders of “green cards.” Because of this, we need to continue the work to extend crucial social services such as healthcare for all immigrants regardless of status, and to resist the current federal bent in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is indiscriminately detaining and deporting immigrants who are now deeply embedded in our labor force and communities.”
Kim Belshé, Executive Director of First 5 LA
“Newcomers to California push our economy forward with their skills and ideas. With nearly one in four children having at least one parent who was born outside the U.S. (Kaiser Family Health Foundation), we need state lawmakers to support policies to harness that human capital so we can continue building a stronger economy and a brighter future for kids and adults alike. California has led the way in embracing immigrants as part of our future.
“Past decisions by state leaders to expand health coverage and increase access to preschool opportunities for children, including undocumented children, can be a model for the nation to follow. Our immigration regulations at every level should reflect the deep American belief that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Our state leaders need to stay the course and oppose federal efforts that separate children and their families coming here to seek a better life, oppose policies that use children as political pawns and threaten to hinder access to critical family- and child-strengthening services and supports. The priority for our state’s leaders and lawmakers should be to stand up for all kids and oppose any policy that could traumatize young children.”
Maria Mejia, Los Angeles Director, Gen Next
“In the absence of the kind of political courage needed to overhaul our entire immigration system, California lawmakers should be focused on one key priority: creating pathways for guest workers to participate and contribute to the state’s economy.
“In a new era of globalization, where capital, products and ideas are operating across borders and at international scale — why do we insist on constraining labor pools so tightly?
“Empowering high skilled and low skilled immigrants as economic agents is good for all involved — including our economy.
Worldwide, migrants send close to half a trillion U.S. dollars back to their home countries. With their improved economic status, we can also imagine a day when California’s migrant workforce also become more fruitful drivers of their own economies, improving quality of life here, as well as abroad.”
Les Simmons, Pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center
“California legislators need to continue to stay strong for legislation such as SB 54 and AB 60 to welcome, include and protect all Californians. Refuse to take any [money] from private prison/detention centers like GEO Group and CoreCivic.”
On some broader principles:
John Pérez, Former Speaker of the California Assembly
“America is no stranger to intense polarization on immigration… Waves of nativism have historically been preceded by economic crises or some other panic… What’s different and dangerous now is that we’re not in an economic crisis. And some of the angriest voices live in some of the wealthiest communities in America.
“Nothing has spoken to us so powerfully as images of incarcerated children, locked up by our government in cages. Every moment for those kids is a nightmare. Every moment for their parents is agony. Every moment this continues is a stain on our national history, and it will not be corrected by the outrage at the news alone.
“The only way to reverse course will be to organize and elect candidates in November who are committed to sane and human immigration policies. It can be done: Most Americans are appalled at what’s happening in their name. That’s why we’ve seen people leave work to protest, lawyers leave practices to represent migrant parents, and members of Congress leave Washington D.C. to personally demand answers from the wardens of these internment camps.
“Our morality is being tested. We, as a country, are rediscovering the wisdom of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ in which he wrote that ‘any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades personhood is unjust.’”
Harmeet Dhillon, Republican National Committee, California, and Partner in Dhillon Law Group
“California needs to prioritize the rights and interests of its citizens and legal residents first. The large influx of low-wage workers and residents encouraged to enter California illegally and reside here depresses wages, job opportunities, and quality of life for Californians. We need to secure our borders and stop encouraging illegal immigration by reversing our sanctuary city and state policies and by enforcing our criminal and regulatory laws on all.”
Astrid Ochoa, Election administration and voting advocate
“The reasons for why people emigrate are complex. However, in its most simple form immigration policy is about how we treat our neighbor. Every individual arriving in our golden state deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Therefore, California lawmakers should prioritize the protection of basic human rights for all immigrants in California, especially when these are threatened by federal action. Currently, the reunification of families who were separated at the border for seeking asylum should be the most pressing issue. Children belong with their parents. It is unfathomable to think otherwise.”
Aziza Hasan, Executive Director of NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership For Change
“I run an organization determined to bridge differences, to build worlds together. In that context, how do I respond to the challenge of immigration? Right now, it’s hard for me to respond any other way than, simply, as the mother of two young boys. We are in a moment of moral crisis. A crisis of national identity and humanity. A judge has ordered the 3000 children separated from families to be reunited (USA Today, 7/12/18). Many of these families are still severed from one another. Reuniting those families must be our first priority. Separation causes harm to both parents and children — families already among the most vulnerable on the planet. The longer these families are separated, the greater the likelihood and the extent of long-term harm: mental and physical illness, developmental damage, further entrenchment of poverty. We must prioritize mental health and legal support for these families. Our second priority is self-examination, a reality check. Our diversity is our strength in America. When we succumb to fear and division, we lose our strength, our wealth, our selves, our values. Our souls, as a nation.”
Linda Ackerman, President of Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series
“Cities and counties declaring themselves as sanctuaries sends the wrong message to all immigrants who are here illegally and to those who continue to try various ruses to cross our borders illegally. We have a federal immigration policy, and perhaps it is time to clearly define, strengthen and enforce it.”
Bill Burton, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker in Los Angeles
“The challenge that Democrats face is demonstrating resolve and toughness on border security in a moment when the fringes of both parties are making it very difficult to lead with reason. It wasn’t that long ago that it was very easy to see the tremendous connective tissue between the parties when it came to immigration — the intense partisan battle lines have made that connection hard to find.”
Jon Fleischman, Publisher of the FlashReport
“There seems to be a fundamental difference of opinion in Sacramento as to whether illegal immigration is a good thing or a bad thing for America and California.
“Those who think it is a good thing, presumably they support open borders, then I think they are on track to encourage more of it, both by using state laws to stymie efforts by our country to enforce immigration laws, and also by offering state services and subsidies to those who come here in violation of the law.
“For those of us who believe illegal immigration is a bad thing, and that we need to follow the rule of law, we think there needs to be a distinction drawn between legal immigration, which we embrace, and illegal immigration. We believe that California Democrats can continue to wage a high-profile war with the President without encouraging more law-breaking.
“Finally, there is no need, in enforcing immigration laws, to separate children from their parents. But it is also important to place responsibility on citizens of other nations who violate our laws, with their children in tow. That’s not very responsible behavior.”
Jonathan Keller, President of California Family Council
“According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, California is the only state in the nation with more than one-fourth of its population to born outside the United States (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/05/14/15-states-with-the-highest-share-of-immigrants-in-their-population). With abundant natural resources, beautiful mountains and beaches, and world-renowned industries, it’s easy to see why the Golden State attracts people from around the globe. But despite our many advantages, California also leads the nation in poverty, where nearly one of every five residents is poor. In addition, despite our state’s 39 million people representing just 12 percent of the nation’s population, we are home to more than 34 percent of the country’s welfare recipients. Rather than attacking our federal leaders for partisan advantage, California’s lawmakers should proactively develop sound bipartisan policy proposals. Sacramento should lead by example. Our state must show how we can compassionately welcome those seeking a better life and while reducing poverty and welfare spending for our current population. If we want to see true federal reform, California should extend an olive branch instead of a closed fist.”
Roger Salazar, President of Alza Strategies
“California lawmakers should continue to focus on valuing the work and contributions of immigrants while at the same time protecting Californians from divisive federal policies that actually end up making the state less safe.”
Jessica Levinson, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School
“Ensuring that people, regardless of where they are born, are treated humanely and that children are not separated from their parents.”
Gray Davis, Governor of California, 1999-2003
“California is home to roughly 25 percent (10 [million]) of foreign-born immigrants. However, roughly half of those 10 [million] immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens. Another 26 percent are here legally (i.e. Green Card holders, etc.), leaving 25 percent of California’s immigrants undocumented.
“But there is more to the story. Last year (2017) 43 percent of all Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or their child. Fifty-seven percent of the top 35 Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or their child. Of these roughly 216 companies: 12.1 million workers are employed, $5.3 trillion in global revenue has been produced.
“Demagoguing immigrants as a class, an unfortunate political tactic, ignores the immense economic and cultural contributions immigrants have made to our country.
“Therefore, lawmakers advocating policy that affects immigrants should keep two things in mind: (1) we are a country of immigrants, and (2) we should incentivize legal immigration while not foreclosing the same opportunities to immigrants that enabled our families and ancestors to come here and prosper.”
Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
“There is little doubt that immigration is perhaps the most polarizing issue in California. However, in an attempt to view this objectively, it cannot be denied that a significant influx of undocumented immigrants has a huge impact on taxpayers. This is especially true for K-12 education and healthcare. California should continue its proud tradition of welcoming legal immigrants and should press to have Congress for comprehensive immigration reform. But recent statutes mandating non-cooperation with federal officials seeking to enforce federal law are counterproductive and well as legally suspect.”
Mindy Romero, Founder and Director of the California Civic Engagement Project at USC
“California lawmakers must continue to protect the safety and well-being of documented and undocumented immigrants. But we must remember that not all Californians view immigration policy through the same lens. Many state leaders regularly proclaim California’s unified and steadfast support for more open and welcoming immigration policies. But this does not reflect reality on the ground in California. Our state has come a long way since the days of the blatant anti-immigrant efforts that fueled passage of Proposition 187 in the 1990s. But we have not come as far as many of us would like to think. Too
many Californians still see immigrants as a threat to their personal values and the well-being of the state. Meanwhile, immigrants themselves continue to face distrust, discrimination and even hatred from some fellow Californians—sometimes even in self-proclaimed progressive communities. Our leaders must acknowledge this hostility and actively work to counter and prevent it. They should challenge anti-immigrant campaigns of fear and misinformation that occur within our state, and work to educate all young people to be open-minded and inclusive. We as a state still have a way to go in crafting the ideal
immigration policy environment. But we can start by dealing honestly with our own internal conflicts, however difficult.”