California State Budget Makes Space for Undocumented Immigrant Legal Aid

Credit:Sherry Smith

(ESPAÑOL) The proposed California state budget puts tens of millions of dollars into programs that could help undocumented immigrants fight federal efforts to deport them, including opening up $10 million to hire lawyers for unaccompanied minors trying to stay in the U.S.

The budget pushed through by majority Democrats expands funding for immigration legal services offered through the Department of Social Services and public colleges.

It also includes $1.6 million to build a team of eight attorneys and investigators in the Labor Commissioner’s office at the Department of Industrial Relations. They would enforce a state law that requires businesses to tell their employees when they’re contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

That team would carry out last year’s Assembly Bill 450, which California lawmakers advocated as a rebuttal to the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Employers face penalties of $2,000 to $10,000 if they fail to notify their workers of a pending immigration action.

“Donald Trump’s out-of-control deportation force is constant threat to our immigrant communities,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who wrote the law. “This expenditure shows that the Labor Commissioner and the State of California are serious about protecting our immigrant workers.

The $200 billion budget package did not deliver the big-ticket items immigration activists wanted, such as proposals that Assembly leaders sponsored to provide health care coverage and tax breaks to undocumented Californians.

The items allocating money for immigration lawyers build on existing programs. Last year’s budget, for instance, put $45 million into providing legal services to immigrants. The Department of Social Services can tap that money to hire nonprofit organizations that will work on immigration cases.

Two years ago, almost 46,000 people used those services, according to the department.

The upcoming budget also more than triples legal funding for undocumented minors. Last year, the Department of Social Services received $3 million for those cases. In the next budget, the department gets $10 million to help young undocumented immigrants.