Five Key Economic Trends Among California Latinos Revealed in New Report

By Renato Rocha, Policy Analyst, Economic Policy Project, NCLR

Demographic trends have long predicted that Latinos will be a large proportion of the country’s population, workforce, and economy. These forecasts are a reality today in California, where we get a glimpse into the nation’s demographic and economic future.

Today, California has the largest Hispanic population in the nation, with two in every five Californians (39%) identifying as Latino. Nationally, the U.S. Hispanic population stands at 56 million and, by 2050, is estimated to reach 106 million, accounting for one out of every four people in the country.

A new report by NCLR’s Economic Policy Project examines Latinos’ economic status across a range of indicators in California and offers recommendations for public policies at the state and national level that can boost economic mobility and security for more individuals.

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This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending January 29

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Week Ending January 29

This week in immigration: New poll shows support for administrative relief; our colleagues at America’s Voice provide a primer on judicial standing; and NCLR Affiliate TODEC reflects on passage of AB 60 in California.

Reuters polls shows support president’s administrative relief measures: A new poll released this week by Reuters and Ipsos finds yet again that a majority of Americans support the actions taken by President Obama to provide administrative relief. 61 percent of Americans support the plan to provide a reprieve from deportation for some of the 11.3 undocumented immigrants currently in the country, including 42 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of Democrats. This poll comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the Supreme Court will hear the case surrounding President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which would provide relief for an estimated 4 million undocumented immigrants.

Editorials questions validity of administrative relief lawsuit: With oral arguments expected in the spring in the United States v. Texas case, numerous media outlets have voiced support for President Obama’s administrative relief plans. America’s Voice provided an analysis of the state of Texas’s legal standing to sue the United States over the President’s executive action. The analysis argues that the legal standing is questionable at best, given the Supreme Court’s precedent of allowing the President broad authority when it comes to immigration enforcement.

Additionally, an op-ed in the New York Times calls the claims made by the 26 states taking part in the lawsuit “groundless” and says states should never have been allowed to sue in the first place. “Texas claims that it has that right [to sue] simply because it thinks the president’s orders would harm its economy,” writes the Times. “If the court were to accept this kind of claim, it would mean that any time a state or city opposed a federal action, it could drag that political dispute into the courts.”

NCLR Affiliate, TODEC, on the implementation of California law AB 60: California celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of AB 60 in California, which authorizes driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. In a blog post, Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities Legal Center (TODEC), reflected on the fight to pass the measure, saying, “Once AB 60 passed, one of the sheriffs in an area we serve said that his department wouldn’t respect the law, but through building relationships and sitting down and discussing our constituents’ side, he finally agreed that he would uphold the law and allow his officers to do so as well.” Founded 31 years ago, TODEC is an NCLR Affiliate that advocates for immigrants’ rights in California’s Inland Empire.

And Justice For All: Building Relationships for Immigrant Communities

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC Legal Center

By Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, NCLR

Founded 31 years ago, the Training Occupational Development Educating Communities Legal Center (TODEC) has been an advocate for immigrants’ rights in California’s Inland Empire. The organization was instrumental in advocating and lobbying for the successful passage of AB 60, a 2013 California law authorizing driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. While some decried the law, thousands of people already driving in California were able to take state mandated driving tests and become officially certified to drive in the state. Public safety aside, the law provided more than just a state-issued license. For the first time, many undocumented immigrants were able to take their children to school without fear of tickets, arrest, confiscation of their vehicles, or even deportation.

Luz Gallegos, Community Programs Director for TODEC, described the fight to make sure all Californians can live their lives productively and effectively.

“We just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the passage of AB 60, which is
the California driver license law for undocumented immigrants. There were situations where the police would be outside the schools in the mornings and afternoons, giving tickets, and once they found out a parent didn’t have a driver’s license, they would take their vehicle away,” said Gallegos. “The parents felt that they were being targeted. A high percentage of families living in the area were undocumented.”TODEC logo

The confiscation of the family car had a detrimental impact: children weren’t able to get to school, nor parents to work.

Compounding the issue, the various police departments in Riverside, San Bernardino, and Imperial counties were less than receptive to working with the community to address the driver’s license issue, among others.

“Once AB 60 passed, one of the sheriffs in an area we serve said that his department wouldn’t respect the law, but through building relationships and sitting down and discussing our constituents’ side, he finally agreed that he would uphold the law and allow his officers to do so as well,” said Gallegos.

Relationship-building has been a tool consistently invoked in the fight against police abuse, and while that may seem obvious to an observer, those working on the ground to correct the police violence epidemic see it as the most valuable tactic available. Once both sides of the debate sit down to discuss their views and issues, the debate softens and workable solutions are usually found.

“Relationships are important—not only with the police officers and captains, but also with the sheriffs because they are elected officials and it’s very important for them to see that the community is paying attention to them as well. That brought a lot of accountability.”

Ending abusive policing tactics is a challenge we must undertake as a nation if we wish to live in a peaceful, trusting society. Allowing distrust and violence to become ingrained in our collective lives would undermine the basic tenets of our democracy.

California Invests in the Health of All Its Children

HEALTH-child-getting-ear-checked_1Starting in May 2016, children in California who meet income eligibility requirements but who are otherwise ineligible due to immigration status will be eligible for public coverage via the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. The Golden State is the largest one to join New York, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia to cover all children. Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 4 into law recently, paving the way for the expansion of health coverage to all eligible children under the age of 18, regardless of immigration status. The bill originally intended to broaden eligibility to include adults as well, but was narrowed during negotiations in June.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, who led the effort said, “It’s a precursor for us to getting healthcare for all in the next year or so.”

In the meantime, 170,000 children will be eligible for coverage when the law goes into effect next year. NCLR remains committed to increasing the number of individuals with quality, affordable, and accessible health coverage and care, regardless of who they are, where they live, or how much they or their families make.

California’s effort is a significant step toward a more inclusive health care environment for all.

Setting the Washington Post Straight on Proposition 47, California’s Sentencing Reform Legislation

ICE.XCheckII.arrestLast November, Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 47, which reclassifies non-serious, nonviolent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The law was intended to lessen overcrowding in prisons and to use the state’s justice-allocated resources more wisely. NCLR joined forces with Californians for Safety and Justice and were active advocates of the proposition’s passage. NCLR supported Proposition 47 because:

  • The law can reduce the impact of historical discriminatory treatment of Latinos by the criminal justice system. Latinos are more likely to be arrested, detained, and sentenced to longer periods of time than their non-Hispanic counterparts, often for the same classification of charges.
  • California will invest cost savings from implementing Proposition 47 in local mental health services, drug treatment programs, and school initiatives designed to serve at-risk youth, as well as services for victims of crime.
  • Public safety is an important issue for Latinos and Proposition 47 maintains the same levels of punishment for serious and violent criminal offenses.
  • Criminal records, even for very minor offenses, have significant consequences, and pose significant barriers for ex-offenders searching for employment, or housing, and accessing social services and other government benefits, even when they have paid their debt to society. For immigrants, the consequences can be severe; a felony conviction can lead to deportation or other immigration consequences.

Recently, the Washington Post published an article attempting to assess whether Proposition 47 was functioning as intended. The author chronicled the experiences of a homeless man living on the streets of San Diego who is caught with small amounts of drugs, arrested, fined, and released numerous times. The article points out that prior to the passage of Proposition 47, one such infraction would have been considered a felony and the offender could have been forced into a drug treatment program as an alternative to a prison sentence.

Here are some critical omissions from the article:

  1. Proposition 47 has been in effect for approximately 11 months. The State of California has yet to calculate realized cost savings, and in accordance with the new law’s provisions, investments in mental health, drug treatment, and prevention programs will not be implemented until 2016.
  2. Alternative programs to sentencing have historically not been made equally available to Latinos, who compose almost half of the state’s population, and are more likely to receive a prison sentence than a similarly situated White offender. Proposition 47 lessens the impact of discriminatory treatment of minority communities by the justice system.
  3. Surely there is at least one person living in San Diego who could have provided the author with a success story, perhaps one about how his or her life turned around for the better because Proposition 47 gave them second chance.
  4. The article considers exclusively the views of law enforcement officials to the exclusion of mental health professionals, and community service providers who work on behalf of ex-offender populations and undoubtedly would have provided different point of view.
  5. Despite not being able to demonstrate a causal connection to increases in crime—because as the author explicitly notes “it’s too early to know how much crime can be attributed to Proposition 47”—the article nevertheless lists a number of California cities where crime has allegedly increased post-enactment of the new law. The fact is that crime, particularly violent crime, is on an uptick in many cities across the country. Like Proposition 47, proposed bipartisan federal sentencing reform legislation maintains punishment for violent crime.

There are 2.2 million people incarcerated in the United States, more than in any other country in the world. As our nation reconsiders policies that have resulted in mass incarceration, the people of California led the way and enacted common-sense sentencing reform, reasoning that it was important to address the root causes of crime and not just the symptoms. Assessing California’s implementation of Proposition 47 based exclusively on the views of law enforcement and the experiences of one drug offender does yield accurate information. The people of California deserve better.