Redefining California Through State by State Immigration Reform
Immigration is the domestic debate weaving in and out of our nation’s news, only able to showcase its flaws and defects when Americans have enough attention span between other headliners. Unfortunately, the problem itself– millions of immigrant labourers being marginalized and undermined– is not put on hold, and still stands as a lost cause in our domestic homefront.
Perhaps the very reason why the immigration debate has been ignored not only by the public, but equally by our own public servants too, is because of the complexity of the matter– its delicate social implications and barren party consensus on the issue. But the façade of political obstacles and immobility can only last so long, especially for states like ours, where ten million California workers deal with the difficulties of federal immigration laws everyday. Any reform of these federal laws seems especially doubtful, with a record stagnation between the White House and Congress.
Though perhaps immigration is a policy area best dealt with on a state-by-state basis, an idea that has been proposed by certain prominent progressives such as New York Governor Lieutenant candidate Tim Wu. During a talk in San Francisco last week, Wu challenged the thought of there really being a one-size-fits-all federal solution, and proposed the notion of alternative state action within the context of immigration.
This idea isn’t so idealistic either; New York Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assembly member Karim Camara has already proposed the ‘New York is Home’ Act— a bill that would embody similar ideals of granting qualified immigrants state citizenship and rights. Eligibility includes being able to provide identification, having resided in New York and paid state taxes for 3 years, and “attest willingness” to abide by state laws and continue to pay taxes. Once granted a state citizenship, some rights entitled include the ability to vote in local and state elections, obtain professional and state drivers license, and have access to state funded social welfare programs and financial aid.
Like any proposed bill, the ‘New York is Home’ Act still has a long road ahead, but the bottom-up governance model the Act implies provides an intriguing alternate solution to our current gridlock. The only problem: the lack of a responsive and proactive “bottom”. Local and state civic engagement is in dire straights, as exemplified by state and local voter turnout. For example, a 2013 study of 340 mayoral elections in 144 U.S. found that voter turnout in those cities averaged at 25.8%, compared to the 60% of eligible population who votes during presidential elections (PPIC). Not only do any congressional solutions seem impossible, but with these stats, any change coming from constituents’ roots seems doubtful as well.
With the highest number of immigrants than in any other state, California urgently needs to find solutions to inefficient federal immigration policies. These harsh immigration laws have hindered economic growth, and continue to compromise the democratic process itself by ignoring millions of tax paying immigrant laborers. Now more than ever, it is time to shift the attention span we hold for national headliners into the focus and action we need to see change in our states and local governments.
You can even do so in the comfort of your own home, via the online initiative I created using the Civinomics online platform, here.