A coalition of liberal Democratic lawmakers and conservative ranchers is trying to build support in California for a bill that would grant work permits to thousands of illegal immigrants already working in the state, according to the Contra Costa Times
Manuel Pérez, a Democratic state assembly member and sponsor of the bill, said immigrants who pay a fee, prove they are learning English, and show they have been working in California for at least five months would receive permits allowing them to stay, the Times reported Monday.
“We’re not importing folks from Latin America or Mexico,” Pérez said. “We’re talking about workers who have been here now for a period of years, who have raised their families here already.”
It’s estimated that up to three-quarters of workers in California’s $37.5 billion farm industry are in the United States illegally. Pérez said he offered the measure — which has cleared one committee — after discussions with conservative agribusiness interests and fellow Democrats in the legislature.
Phil Martin, an economist at the University of California at Davis, predicted that if the measure becomes law, and if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona’s tough immigration policy, the measure would likely pass judicial review as a states’ rights issue.
“If the Supreme Court says states can make some of their own policies — if it upholds that — I would expect you would see not just the enforcement stuff, but this kind of law as well,” Martin told the Times.
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