New Rights for California’s Undocumented

A handful of new laws this autumn will strengthen civil rights, improve access to education, and protect jobs for the state’s undocumented immigrants.
DREAM Act photo by Paulina Clemente

A UCLA student demands the DREAM Act.

Photo by Paulina Clemente.

Several laws signed by California Governor Jerry Brown this autumn will improve life in the state for undocumented immigrants, recognizing their civil rights and improving their prospects for education and employment.

One of these, AB 131, builds on AB 130, signed this summer. These two laws, collectively known as the “California Dream Act,” enable eligible undocumented students at California colleges and universities to receive private or state-funded financial aid as of January 1, 2013.

“Passage of AB 131 will be the opening bell in the savviest investment California has ever made,” said UCLA student Justino Mora, in a statement released by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “I know I represent high interests for my family, my community, and my country if I am given this chance.”

Brown also signed a law that prohibits police at DUI checkpoints from arresting people solely for driving without a license and then impounding their cars, a practice that has disproportionately affected undocumented immigrants.

The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act, signed by the governor, will make it easier for California’s approximately 400,000 farmworkers to join unions and negotiate for fair labor rights. This was a victory for campaigners, who saw three previous versions of the law vetoed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The governor also signed AB 1236, which prevents local governments from making mandatory the federal E-Verify system for checking employee citizenship. This contrasts with the policies of states such as Arizona, where E-Verify is mandatory.

A push to make E-Verify mandatory nationwide is being spearheaded by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who claims it will free up 7 million jobs now held by undocumented immigrants. But in Georgia, where tough immigration laws have driven out large numbers of undocumented immigrants, a study earlier this year found the state had a shortage of 5,244 farm workers, leaving unharvested crops rotting in the fields.


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