California bill would grant work permits to tens of thousands of undocumented workers

Manuel Perez speaks at an assembly hearing. Perez is one of the bill's supporters.
Manuel Perez speaks at an assembly hearing. Perez is one of the bill's supporters. http://asmdc.org/

A California bill would grant state work permits to tens of thousands of undocumented workers who are already doing agricultural and service work.

While states such as Arizona and Alabama have bills that restrict illegal immigration, a proposed California bill is aiming to help immigrants stay — and work — in the state.

The bill is controversial, not only because it would allow almost 2 million unauthorized immigrants to work, but also because the state is facing a budget crisis and high unemployment.

But Democratic Assemblyman Manuel Perez, the son of immigrant farmworkers, says “federal inaction on immigration” is prompting him to do something to help workers and the businesses that rely on them.

An estimated three-quarters of the state’s farm workforce is made up of immigrants not authorized to live and work in the U.S. By paying a fee, proving that they are trying to learn English, and proving that they’ve been working in California for at least five months, undocumented immigrants could get a permit authorizing them to live and work in the state.

The California Agricultural Jobs and Industry Stabilization bill just passed an Assembly committee, but its co-author, Republican Assemblywoman Linda Halderman, has pulled her support.

In a statement, Halderman said that due to pressures from outside stakeholders, she believes the bill is “no longer the proper vehicle in which to address the critical issues facing thousands of hard-working agricultural laborers and their families.”

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