Immigration reform in California is good. But more is needed in the United States.
California is home to more than 2.6 million people who have immigrated illegally. They account for one-tenth of the state’s total labor force, from workers in low-level jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, service and construction to highly skilled professionals. They are an integral part of the economy and culture of our state, and they’re not going away.
Those are the facts on the ground, and California took positive steps toward recognizing them recently when Gov. Jerry Brown signed eight bills expanding immigrants’ rights.
Chief among these were laws enabling these immigrants to apply for drivers’ licenses and for licenses to practice law—welcome recognitions of their important role in the state economy. Another new law prohibits police from holding individuals for immigration authorities unless they are charged with certain serious crimes, laying the groundwork for increased trust and cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
As welcome as these measures are, they do not preclude the need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. In the absence of a workable national immigration policy, states are creating a patchwork system of their own. Some, like California, are encouraging assimilation. Others, like Arizona, seem to have self-deportation as their goal. The inconsistency is not good for immigrants, the economy or U.S. foreign relations. Congress should act now to approve the immigration reforms passed by the Senate in June and provide a clear path to citizenship.