The immigrants originating from outside the United States continue to swell in subsequent years, and California is no exception. The Federal entities and the State frameworks in California have had a myriad of debates concerning unauthorized immigrants for many years (Roper, 2015). California is experiencing many challenges that relate to ameliorating its immigration structure, and there are many undocumented immigrants in the State. Issues, such as loss of jobs, overcrowding in prisons, low approval from state government, and scarcity of education grants, are some of the essential problems that the California government is struggling to resolve through immigration policy. The residents of California often take a strong position when it comes to matters of immigration, especially when there is a large wave of low-skilled immigration into the State, as they interfere with their social, political, and economic situation in their state.
The immigration policies ratified between 1985 and 2009, and the criminalization of illegal immigrants culminated in a myriad of Hispanic arrests in California. Additionally, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deals with the removal of illegal immigrants, and it runs a detainer program linked to illegal immigrants (Mason, 2015). Since the inception of the program in 2008, there has been a deportation of 300,000 immigrants in America. Of the 300,000 immigrants that were deported, 80,000 originated from California (Patterson, 2015). Many Californian legislators, including Tom Ammiano, discerned limitations in the ICE framework, and in 2013, they advocated the Trust Act. Under the Act, ICE detainer requests do not require a warrant or an established standard of proof, and critics viewed this as an infringement of the individual liberty of immigrants.
Allowing undocumented immigrants to live in the state has been blamed for increased crime, child abuse, drug trafficking, and other federal felonies. This has resulted in “mass incarceration” that has occurred in the US prisons since the 1970s. According to Glaze (2010), the American jails and prisons had accumulated about 2.3 million people by 2009, but scholars claimed that the increase was due to “harsher and longer sentences than an increase in criminal behavior,” which was an indication of “shift in the US penal system” (Patterson, 2015, p. 469). In California, the passing of Determinate Sentencing Law (DSL), which occurred in 1977, as well as the “Three Strikes,” which was passed in 1994, contributed largely in mass incarceration and overcrowding of state prisons.
Disparities in sentencing resulted in countless African Americans ending up in prisons. The DSL did not favor the minority groups, since the law focused on offenses that touched mainly on minorities. The political temperature could be blamed for the shift in measures to prevent crime. Rising in income inequality that was experienced in the 1980s was one of the reasons for rising in incarceration rates, as prisons were expanded to accommodate surplus labor (Patterson, 2015). Politicians have contributed to inequality in sentencing because they did not revise the law, in addition to being unwilling to support the minorities in securing employment in majority owned firms. However, the so-called Trust Act, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013, signaled a personal turnaround in crime where immigrants have been shielded from arrest due to suspicion of minor crimes, and “prohibits placing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds on jail inmates who are otherwise eligible for release” (Noguchi & May, 2013, n.p). According to Brown, Trust Act was meant to safeguard the public and protect immigrants who are hard working and upright in their behaviors.
Apart from transforming the state’s economic environment, immigrants have their share in changing the social life in California, leading to general dissatisfaction among citizens who believe that the ethnic landscape has been altered. There exists unconfirmed alarm that ethnic change in the local areas might result in low approval of the state government (Newman & Johnson, 2012). The hypothesis is that ethnic change is a sign that immigration issue is out of control while citizens perceive elected officials as “responsible for this and will essentially punish them for their ‘poor job’ in handling and preventing the problem” (p. 417). Citizens residing in areas with high number of Hispanic population are likely to perceive immigration as an essential problem of the state than other people. The threat created by immigrants is likely to generate fear of loss of norms and traditions, as ordinary citizens are more concerned on general values than self-interests (Boushey & Luedtke, 2011). Such fear encourages racism and inequality in resource allocations in the state. According to Brown (2013), anti-Hispanic attitude is termed as “widespread, politically potent, and grounded in racialized beliefs about welfare dependency” (p. 292). Thus, racial attitudes have affected how policy debates should be constructed in multi-ethnic society.
Most Californian students have become worried of the way the state government has been handling the issue of illegal immigrants. In 2011, the Californian government was contemplating of signing an act that would enable illegal immigrants, particularly to college student, to enjoy financial aid just as legal students (Watanabe, 2011). The Californian students are not convinced that the state government is even capable of offering adequate funds to legal citizens, hence, should not contemplate of extending such assistance to illegal immigrants. However, experts are optimistic that the law will come at an extremely low cost while the investment will garner significant returns in revenue collection. The Dream Act, which was passed in California and Texas, allowed “undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state university tuition fees” (Boushey & Luedtke, 2011, p. 391). According to Diana Fuentes Michel, the executive director of Student Aid Commission in California, the Dream Act poses no danger to US citizens, as the $1.3 billion set aside in Cal-Grant Entitlement Program is legible to every student who has attained the academic limits, as well as the low-income requirements (Watanabe, 2011).
The challenge of getting the exact figure of immigrants has inhibited both federal and state governments’ practice of affording equal distribution of obtainable resources. Although the annual kitty in Cal-Grant has kept on rising every year, the Senate Committee in California has a challenge of identifying the exact number of undocumented students who are eligible for the grants. This is because a federal form that has been used to award financial grants requires students to produce “Social Security Number or taxpayer identification number” in addition to “evidence of income, such as tax return” (Watanabe, 2011, n.p). Getting a Social Security Number from undocumented immigrants proves hard because they are not registered citizens. If the state government can erase the option of filling in the tax identification number or security number, many students from undocumented immigrants’ families could benefit from state’s fund, which in turn would enable them secure high-paying job and contribute towards the state’s revenue collection.
Immigration issue is an enormous challenge in California because it has enormously influenced social, political, and economic environment of the state. For instance, the recent four-day sting operation run by immigration agents in Southern California culminated in the arrest of more than 244 immigrants with criminal records (Mason, 2015). California has been at the focal point of many discussions linked to immigration due to its popularity in hosting the largest number of undocumented immigrants. Differences in racial groups enhance inequality in sentencing while ethnic landscape reduces approval by the state government. The Trust Act provides a glimmer of hope in curbing the immigration issue, and other states can emulate such initiatives while the Dream Act is a consolation to bright minority students, who could not afford to pay for higher education. California has not exhausted strategies to tap benefits from immigrants, thus, its citizens should not complain of immigrants enjoying state’s resources.
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