How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

CA bill proposes benefits for deferred action recipients

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A state law that kicks in next month will allow young immigrants who obtain temporary legal status under the federal deferred action program to obtain California driver's licenses, but not state benefits like unemployment or medical care. Now a new bill proposes allowing them to obtain additional benefits like these, along with some protection against unscrupulous immigration service providers when they apply.

The bill is AB 35, introduced recently by Assembly member Roger Hernandez, a Democrat from the West Covina. It would offer more benefits for deferred action recipients. At the same time, it attempts to curb price gouging and other unscrupulous practices by providers such as attorneys and notaries to whom hopeful deferred action applicants have flocked for assistance.

The Obama administration introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in June and began accepting applications in August. It allows young undocumented immigrants to apply for a work permit and a two-year renewable reprieve from deportation. Applicants must have been under 16 when they arrived in the country and no older than 30 as of last June 15, with a relatively clean record and the ability to prove five consecutive years residency in the United States. 

Some highlights from the bill text, the first regarding immigration service providers:

(a) Immigration consultants, attorneys, and notaries public shall be the only individuals authorized to charge clients or prospective clients fees for providing consultations, legal advice, or notary public services, respectively, associated with filing an application under the deferred action for childhood arrivals program announced by the United States Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012.

(b) (1) Immigration consultants, attorneys, and notaries public shall be prohibited from participating in practices that amount to price gouging when a client or prospective client solicits services associated with filing an application for deferred action for childhood arrivals as described in subdivision (a).

(2) For the purposes of this section, “price gouging” means any practice that has the effect of pressuring the client or prospective client to purchase services immediately because purchasing them at a later time will result in the client or prospective client paying a higher price for the same services.

Punishment would include civil and criminal penalties and professional sanctions against attorneys and notaries. 

And this regarding state benefits:

(a) Notwithstanding any other law, a person who has received a notice of decision from the federal government granting deferred action under the deferred action for childhood arrivals program announced by the United States Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on June 15, 2012, shall be eligible for public benefits, including, but not limited to, 12 state-administered medical assistance and unemployment compensation benefits, to the same extent that a legal resident of California is eligible for those benefits.

(b) Except for unemployment compensation benefits, eligibility for benefits under subdivision (a) shall not be contingent on receipt of employment authorization from the federal government.

People who successfully apply for deferred action would also be able to receive a California state ID, in addition to a driver's license.

Slightly more than 308,000 applicants have filed for deferred action nationwide since August. The program's accepted about 298,000 applications accepted and approved 53,000 through mid-November.

Read the entire California proposal here.

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