Christian Carlo Ceguerra
A Zoom webinar held Oct. 20 shed light on the actions the state of California has taken in terms of increasing support for immigrant communities, and how the situation is currently being addressed in terms of legal and financial support services on the current state of immigration policies on the federal and local level.
“We will have a federal election that is going to chart the part of immigrants rights, probably for the next decade,” said Orville Thomas, the director of Government Affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center. “We’re trying to create a California system that is emblematic of the opportunities we have when we embrace all undocumented immigrants or those that have the luxury of legal status.”
California Immigration Policy Center (CIPC) is a 25-year-old organization was created as a response to anti-immigration policies which restricted access to public benefits for undocumented individuals and their families.
CIPC was able to grow statewide in California through grassroots organizing and with the help of organizations known as Regional Capacity Building Partners (RECABIP), a network of professionals working towards responding to development challenges through investing in local organizations and institutions.
Three policy channels that are critical for immigrant’s rights issues are: economic justice and workforce development, health and public benefits, and detention and deportation.
“The young adults were saying that they wanted their grandparents and parents to get health care coverage before they did,” Thomas said. “We were looking at 2020 as the year we could continue with the focus on pushing the governor to expand medical coverage to our undocumented elders.”
Governor Newsom’s 2019 budget to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to young adults (19-16) and undocumented workers who have an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) filed with the IRS, fell off short when it came to earned income tax credit (EITC).
Undocumented workers contribute over $3.2 billion to the California economy and represent one in ten California workers.
“Expanding the EITC would bring the benefit of an earned income tax credit, which is a cashback tax credit to over 200,000 workers in California and their families,” Thomas said. “This is good policy, especially right during a pandemic and recession. We want to put more money into the hands of those low wage workers.”
Low-wage workers are classified as people who are 18 years or older, making under $30,000 and have an ITIN are eligible for EITC.
2020 marks a historic year for immigrant’s rights, and the CIPC focuses on three specific agendas: inclusion of undocumented seniors for Medi-Cal; the expansion for One California Legal Service Program, a program that provides $65 million dollars annually to organizations to provide legal services for families who have immigration questions or need legal representation; and CIPC’s push towards ending the involvement of California’s prisons with the detention deportation pipeline.
“We want to make sure that everyone is talking to legal professionals and tax professionals, so that they are able to qualify and receive the money that they are working so hard for and reducing the kind of concern about any penalties for immigration status,” Thomas said.
As for the community colleges system, there are 65 colleges that are providing free immigration legal services for students, faculty and staff — Sparkpoint at Skyline College being one of them.
The director and executive director of The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration provided an overview on the situation regarding immigration policies at the federal level.
José Magaña-Salgado is a lawyer who is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient himself, is the director of policy and communications for the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education, and is on policy advocacy for different organizations as well.
“If Democrats control both the White House, Senate and the House, we may see a COVID-19 package move very quickly,” Magaña said. “Within it, we may see permanent status and protection for DACA recipients, TPS recipients, and critical essential workers then a few months later, doing immigration reform to get the rest of the undocumented population.”
DACA has about 643,000 active recipients — Over 800,000 people in total have been granted the status, but many have either transitioned to permanent status, left the country, or fallen out of status. 216,000 have enrolled in higher education. A total of 450,000 undocumented students in general enrolled in higher education.
Effective on July 28, 2020, the United States Department of Homeland Security’s new memo will reject all initial DACA and Advance Parole applications from DACA, as well as limit renewals from two years to one year, with a filing fee.
With over 400,000 active recipients from over ten countries, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) offers protection from deportation and work permits for individuals who cannot safely return to their country.
“What’s happening on campus impacts students in a very immediate way,” said Miriam Feldblum, the Executive Director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. “There’s ongoing litigation, and really, whoever gets into the presidency under the next administration will decide what happens with this litigation and whether these folks are being protected.”
The panelists also gave out advice and future precautions if DACA were to end, such as seeking for legal advice regarding immigration status and other concerns. They encouraged students and their families to create a safety net of resources within the California Community Colleges like the Resource Center.
“I think one of the best ways that you can prepare for it is to seek out a legal service provider,” host Alonso Garcia said. “They can do an analysis and an intake, and see what immigration remedies are available to you.”
To see how much you could get through these tax credits, and to find out how to file your taxes for free, visit caleitc4me.org or myfreetaxes.org.
To seek legal service for immigration issues, visit the DREAM Center at Skyline or by email at [email protected] or by calling (650) 738-4220.
To view the Zoom Webinar, visit “A Conversation on Current State and Federal Immigration Policies”.