Monday, May 21, 2007

Hundreds Gather at Capitol Front Steps

Today, 600 advocates, students, parents and community organizers gathered in Sacramento to make their voices heard to the California State Legislature. Buses began arriving in from Los Angeles as early as Sunday evening and by early Monday morning, buses from the central valley and the bay area were pulled up at the capitol front lawn.

The California Immigrant Policy Center organizes an advocacy day every year in May so that people from the community have the opportunity to come and engage their representatives on issues that directly impact their lives. The groups that gathered were comprised of a wide variety of participants, including Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI), Korean Resource Center (KRC) , Mujeres Unidas and Spanish Speaking Citizens' Foundation (SSCF), just to name a few. The groups converged on the front steps of the Capitol for a rally with moving speeches about the benefits of the Dream Act, the effects of the ICE raids, the aftermath of the citrus freeze and the realities facing uninsured children, all culminating with a speech by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez regarding both the health care reform debate here in Sacramento and the federal push for immigration reform. The rally was more than just an opportunity for empowering our communities with a voice, it was also a celebration of the rich cultural diversity of California with performances by an Afro-Cuban dance group, a Baile Folklorico dance team and a Korean Drumming Troupe.

For participants, the most important part of the day was when the gathering dispersed into smaller groups that went to attend meetings with elected officials inside the Capitol. Each person had the opportunity to speak with legislators and staff about their highest priorities, ranging from support for legislative proposals such as The Dream Act and The Office of Immigrant Affairs to opposition of the proposed budget cuts for CalWORKs and SSI. In addition, the groups all voiced their support for increased resources for the Naturalization Services Program and comprehensive health care reform for all Californians. All in all, the day was a tremendous success with a showing of support from a wide base of communities standing strong with a united voice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Budget or Bust

Yesterday, the governor released his revision of the proposed budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year. In a televised press conference, the governor announced that the budget will not increase taxes and instead relies on several key "solutions" - budget cuts that will affect some of California's most vulnerable populations.

Chief among them is suspension of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the Supplemental Security Income/ State Supplementary Payment Program (SSI/SSP). The SSI/SSP Program provides the elderly and the disabled with a modest monthly income of $856. This assistance is often times the only means of income for this population and, although there have been small increases in the dollar amount over the years, given California's rapidly rising cost of living and the rate of inflation, the real value of SSI/SSP payments has drastically diminished. The COLA has all too often been targeted as an easy place to pick up savings, as was the case continually from 1991-98. For the coming fiscal year, the governor proposes to suspend the COLA, yet again, thereby saving the state $185 million.

Another program that is being targeted is CalWORKs, California's version of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, that provides cash grants to adults for a maximum of five years while promoting work participation and self-sufficiency. When the state sanctions a parent by cutting or suspending their aid for failing to comply with work requirements, the state continues to provide aid to the child. Since Republican Governor Pete Wilson joined with a Democrat-controlled Legislature to create this child safety net, the state has consistently adopted the view that children should not be denied aid based on the actions of their parents. The governor, however, proposes to reverse this practice by extending the sanction to kids as well, effectively cutting off aid to the entire family when a parent falls out of compliance with work requirements. The governor also proposes to cut aid to the children of parents who are either undocumented, drug felons, or fleeing felons. This is simply a cost cutting measure that would do nothing to improve work participation requirements or avoid fiscal penalties since these parents are not eligible for CalWORKs. Since proposing these cuts to CalWORKs in January, there has been significant opposition from community groups and the Legislature. Much of the final outcome of the budget will be determined by the budget committee proceedings in the coming weeks where Democrats will begin to craft a budget bill in response.

Despite the fact that the revised budget proposal contains several significant cuts to vital programs, the cuts were certainly not as drastic or widespread as some had originally feared. And, the governor does provide funding to address outstanding issues, such as recovery for those affected by the citrus freeze, support for counties in complying with new federal reporting requirements and adjustments for Medi-Cal reimbursment rates.

For more information on Health and Human Services in the proposed budget, look for our coming analysis.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Greetings from Sacramento

The legislative deadline for bills to pass out of policy committees is upon us and many bills are heading to Appropriations Committee and the Floor to be voted on. Most notably, the Nunez and Perata health care bills (AB 8 and SB 48, respectively) have both passed the Health Committees and are in the Appropriations Committees where the fiscal impact of the bills will be considered. These bills both present comprehensive health care reform proposals in response to the governor's health care plan. CIPC is considering all of the health care proposals and working with our allies and policy makers to ensure that a comprehensive plan is enacted this year that improves access to and the quality of health care for all Californians.

Summer is drawing near and that means Sacramento is turning its attention to the budget for the 2007- 08 fiscal year. Last week, the Assembly and Senate Budget Subcommittees discussed NSP, which provides services to folks going through the naturalization process. The Senate approved the governor's proposed $3 million and the Assembly left the item open for discussion. CIPC will continue to advocate for additional resources for Community Based Organizations that have long waiting lists of people who are eligible and eager to begin the path to citizenship.

The Budget Committees are also considering the governor's proposal to increase SSI payments to keep up with the rising cost of living. The Assembly approved the governor's SSI Cost of Living Adjustment while the Senate left the item open to revisit. Also, both houses are considering minor changes that improve the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) which provides aid to some of our state's most vulnerable populations, the elderly and the disabled.

Next week the governor will release his May Revise of the proposed budget. This will color much of the discussion in Budget Committee during the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more updates on the budget and CIPC's annual analysis of the May Revise and its impact on immigrant families.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Welcome to the California Immigrant Policy Center blog. Here, you can learn about the issues affecting the state's immigrants and communities. You can also take a look at our website - - to find out more about our organization and partners.

Immigrant issues are an important concern to all Californians right now. Approximately 50% of our state's residents are immigrants or the children of immigrant parents. The success of our state depends upon the well-being of our immigrant families. We must have a vision for California's diverse communities to remain a strong, vibrant, and dynamic state. We need policies in place that allows all of our state's residents to thrive. Immigrant issues ARE California's issues. Our futures are tied together, and the policies that support our state's economy and residents benefit all of us. Access to education, healthcare, job training, adult education, housing, and fair wages are just a few of the issues that are important to every worker, every family, every Californian. Immigrants are no different. Just like all of us, they live in our neighborhoods and communities, and they work hard for a living. Immigrants don't require special treatment. They deserve the same benefits as every taxpayer and resident - a decent and affordable life.

I invite you to visit our blog on a regular basis to learn more about the issues affecting immigrants and California's communities. Policy makers are considering key state and federal issues this spring, and we plan to bring you the voices of experts on these proposals and debates. Stay tuned and thanks for visiting.