Democratic state legislators in California unveiled a package of proposed measures seeking to offer more assistance and protections to undocumented immigrants.
The lawmakers attributed the action to federal inaction on immigration reform. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon did not mince words when expressing frustration with the years-long failure of Congress to revamp U.S. immigration laws.
He said the package of 10 measures were “a reflection of the dereliction of duty of Congress," and diagnosed it as rooted in "either intellectual laziness or a lack of work ethic on this issue,” according to published reports.
"Today we remind the rest of the nation that California is different," de Leon said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We respect immigrants and recognize the contribution that they have made to this state from the very beginning."
The legislative package would offer state-subsidized health care coverage, known as Medi-Cal, to undocumented immigrants, and penalize businesses that discriminate against undocumented immigrants and people who do not speak English, among other things.
"Our food, our clothing, our music, art and technology — these are industries central to California's advancement, and they're all driven by immigrants," de Leon said at a news conference.
The lawmakers concede that passing the measures will not be smooth sailing.
"If we thought this were easy, it would be done," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, according to the Times. "D.C. would be doing something if it were easy. We intend to set the model. We intend to set the tone."
Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said that while he agrees that immigration reform is necessary, it is not feasible to try to address the lack of federal action on the matter at the local level.
"We understand the burdens facing immigrants who want to go to work and raise their families in safe neighborhoods, and the rationale behind these bills is admirable," Huff said in a statement quoted by the Times. "But without money from Congress and President Obama, it will be very difficult and costly for California taxpayers to fund all of these bill proposals.”
Proponents of strict immigration enforcement say the measures amount to a welcome mat for more illegal immigration.
"These proposals are the latest in a seemingly endless set of legislation designed to make illegal immigration a more comfortable thing," said Joe Guzzardi, national media director for Californians for Population Stabilization, as quoted in the San Jose Mercury. "People living in Mexico and Central America are only going to want to come here more."
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