Policy Update: Immigration Reform, CA Drivers’ Licenses for All, the Governor’s Budget and Medical Expansion

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Momentum around commonsense immigration reform at the federal level continues to build. In 2013, the Senate passed its bill (S. 744) that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, alleviates visa backlogs, and restores fairness and due process for those in immigration detention yet also includes harsh border enforcement measures. The House of Representatives introduced similar legislation (H.R. 15), a bipartisan measure that currently has 195 co-sponsors including 3 Republicans. House leadership, including Speaker John Boehner from Ohio, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy from California, and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte have expressed support for legislative reforms that provide legalization – yet have stopped short of endorsing a pathway to citizenship. As of January 30, House Republicans unveiled their party’s principles for immigration reform.  While it is significant that lawmakers are joining the conversation, these principles missed an opportunity to provide a starting point for meaningful solutions. By focusing on border enforcement and legalization without a roadmap to citizenship, what has been introduced today falls far short of what the country and Santa Clara County needs. Commonsense reform requires an accessible pathway to citizenship for all immigrants, protection of family unity, and restoration of due process.

SIREN, in partnership with local and statewide allies, has continued to call for reform and an end to deportations. We invite community members to join us in upcoming opportunities to call upon Congress and the Administration to put forth solutions that keeps our families together, including an action group on February 7 at 9 am at Daniel Lairon Elementary School (3975 Mira Loma Way in San Jose) where participants will shape local immigration reform strategy and an action led by labor organizations on February 26 at 11:30 am in East Palo Alto. We need to keep the pressure on policymakers to make sure that immigration reform happens this year – our families cannot wait any longer.

To join an upcoming action group and get involved in immigration reform activities, email Jeremy Barousse, SIREN’s Community Organizer, at jeremy@siren-bayarea.org.



Currently, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is preparing to begin providing driver’s licenses to all eligible California residents regardless of immigration status by no later than January 1, 2015, legislation (AB 60) signed by Governor Brown last fall.   On January 28, eight SIREN leaders traveled up to our state capital to testify before the Department of Motor Vehicles on how the law should be implemented, including ensuring confidentiality protections for affidavits that individuals without a Social Security Number will be required to complete, providing suggestions on documents the DMV can accept to prove identity and residency, and urging DMV to not impose excessive fees for individuals obtaining these licenses. The DMV is also expected to build a new temporary facility in Santa Clara County in order to handle the increased influx of driver’s license applications and State Senator Jim Beall has requested East San Jose as a potential location. Throughout this year, SIREN will be heavily engaging in community education efforts to ensure that eligible individuals are informed about how to apply for the driver’s license and advocating with the DMV before the law goes into effect.

To learn more about the driver’s license issue, email SIREN’s Policy and Organizing Program Director, at priya@siren-bayarea.org.



On January 9, Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed 2014-15 budget to the state legislature. According to his budget, the state is projected to have a $5.6 billion surplus – yet, it includes little restorations to safety net services that have been devastated in recent years. Rather than allocating funding to reduce the ongoing impact of poverty affecting families, children, and seniors in the state, the Governor prioritized paying down debt and establishing a “rainy day fund.” While the Governor did offer some funding to support the expansion of Medi-Cal, AB 60 implementation, and modest increases to CalWORKs, his budget proposal does not restore funding for the Naturalization Services Program and makes cuts to other social services  programs. SIREN will be working with allies statewide to urge legislators to restore funding to crucial safety net benefits and rebuild the Naturalization Services Program related to citizenship services and outreach to immigrants.

To learn more about the Naturalization Services Program and the state budget, email Priya Murthy, SIREN’s Policy and Organizing Program Director, at priya@siren-bayarea.org.



More immigrants than ever are now eligible for Medi-Cal, a government-sponsored program for low-income individuals.  Starting January 1, 2014, all childless adults who meet income requirements became eligible for some form of this type of health insurance. Specifically, all childless adults who meet Medi-Cal’s income requirements, even if they lack immigration status, are now eligible for restricted scope Medi-Cal. They remain eligible for emergency medical services; public health programs; pregnancy-related, and long-term care Medi-Cal, and sliding scale services at community clinics. In addition, DACA recipients who meet income requirementsare now among those eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal. While undocumented immigrants are still ineligible for health insurance through Covered California, SIREN will be working with allies to support efforts to expand health coverage to all immigrants including upcoming legislation announced by State Senator Ricardo Lara this month. SIREN will continue to conduct presentations and disseminate information regarding health insurance options for immigrants.

To request a presentation, email Jeremy Barousse, SIREN’s Community Organizer, at jeremy@siren-bayarea.org.

This post was written by Patricia Diaz