Fighting for Change
Our policy and advocacy department works with community leaders to challenge the status quo and bring about real change in this country.
We focus on advancing policy platforms that urge all levels of government to invest in the potential of immigrants and refugees. That means pushing civil and workers’ rights, economic equity and environmental justice for everyone.
Our Policy Priorities
- Offer equal protection to immigrants
- Challenge anti-immigrant legislation
- Reduce immigration enforcement
- Seek investment in and inclusion of immigrant communities
CHIRLA's federal platform advocates for a humane and comprehensive, immigration reform fully inclusive of immigrants that protects their human rights. We work to ensure that federal policies offer equal protection to immigrants, challenge anti-immigrant legislation, call for reductions in immigration enforcement, and seek investment in the inclusion of immigrant communities.
In California, CHIRLA seeks to make the Golden State a pro-immigrant model for the rest of the nation. We will advance state and budgetary proposals that enhance the contributions of immigrants, streamline resources to advance immigrant integration, reform the criminal justice system, enhance due process for all, foster community policing models to rebuild trust between law enforcement and immigrants, and invest to increase opportunities in education for immigrants and their children.
CHIRLA’s regional work advances city-level and county-level policies that protect immigrant rights while encouraging their integration through better economic opportunities and civic engagement. Increased collaboration between federal and local law enforcement agencies in recent years has led CHIRLA to focus on disentangling local police from federal immigration enforcers to protect our immigrant community.
Our Work National, State & Local Policy
Immigrants at the National Level
About 44 million immigrants live and work in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s about 13.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of them, 19.8 million are naturalized citizens; 11.9 million are Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs); and 2.1 million have temporary legal status, including 689,800 with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and 300,000 with Temporary Protection Status (TPS).
About 11 million immigrants are undocumented, and many have both deep roots in the community and citizen family members. For example, 16.7 million people in the country have at least one undocumented family member; 8 million U.S. citizens have at least one undocumented family member; and 5.9 million citizen children live with at least one undocumented family member.
CHIRLA’s goals are:
- A permanent, humane solution for immigrants
- Protection of the human and civil rights of immigrant families
- Less funding to deport immigrants and separate families
- More oversight of all agencies in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
CHIRLA mobilizes its members to push for fair, pro-immigrant policies, and overhaul of the immigration system.
Immigrants at the State Level
About 10.7 million immigrants live in California, the most in the nation at 27.3 percent of the population. Of those, 5.3 million are naturalized citizens, 2.2 million are legal permanent residents, and nearly 2.5 million are undocumented. Of the undocumented, 87 percent have been in the country five years or more. The Golden State is also home to the most people with DACA in the nation, at nearly 223,000, and the most people with TPS. Forty-seven percent of California’s children live with an immigrant parent, and 16 percent of those parents are undocumented, while 81 percent of their children are citizens.
Immigrants are critical to the economies of California and the United States. Nationally in 2014, they paid $223.6 billion in federal taxes, including $123.7 billion in Social Security and $32.9 billion in Medicare. Undocumented immigrants pay into Medicare and Social Security but do not get the benefit. Each year, they contribute $13 billion into the Social Security retirement trust fund, but claim only $1 billion.
Immigrants help make California the fifth largest economy in the world. Though they make up 27 percent of the population, they are 35 percent of its employees. Immigrant-owned firms employ 1,460,099 Californians, and they generated $20.2 billion in 2014. In 2007-2011, immigrants founded 45 percent of all new California businesses, and currently, 219,857 of those entrepreneurs are undocumented. Of California’s working-age population, 74.2 percent are immigrant while only 45.5 percent are native-born.
California’s well-being is tied to the success of its immigrants. Of the $38.7 billion that immigrants earned in California in 2016, $1.6 billion went to state and local taxes, $2.7 billion went to federal taxes, and the remaining $34.3 billion represented their spending power in the state.
In light of Congressional refusal to enact a humane immigration reform plan, CHIRLA has worked to make California a model and pro-immigrant state. We are seeking to strengthen civil protections and improve the opportunities for immigrant families to help to integrate them into its economy and culture. Our work also intersects with ro create smart and compassionate judicial system. CHIRLA has sought to mitigate the impact of the 1996 immigration law and criminalization of immigrant communities by reforming California’s penal code to utilize resources to reform and create a smart system and provide a path to redemption. Last year, one of the most legislative successful years as 13 of CHIRLA’s sponsored bills made it to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, and he signed 9 into law.
Immigrants at the Local Level
Los Angeles County is the largest county in the nation, with over 10 million people of whom 3.6 million are immigrants. About 834,600 are undocumted, and 80 percent have lived in the county more than 10 years. Immigrants are 44 percent of the county’s labor force. They represent huge purchasing power and pay billions in county taxes.
CHIRLA is proud to work with coalition partners and achieve policy wins at the City and County levels.
- In 2012, worked with the Los Angeles Police Department to issue Special Order 7, which provides guidelines to officers to use their prosecutorial discretion when not to impound a vehicle from an unlicensed driver. It was implemented in 2014 due to litigation where the State Appeals Court ruled in favor of Special Order 7.
- In 2013, worked with then President of the Los Angeles City Council President, Eric Garcetti to re-established the Los Angeles Office of Immigrant Affairs
- In 2015, After 10 years of the Board first vote to participate in the 287g program, the Board terminated it.
- In 2017, Los Angeles City, County, and philanthropic partnered to create a pilot program dubbed, the Justice Fund to fund legal service providers to provide legal representation to a limited number of immigrants residing in the County who were in detention centers or in deportation proceedings.
- In 2018, advocates a budget augmentation for the Public Defender Office to hire immigration attorneys to uphold the Padilla vs. Kentucky case
Despite our victorie and contributions of immigrants, the State of Immigrants continues to lag in economic mobility, civic engagement, and educational attainment mostly due to lack of significant investment and policies to integrate them in our county.
CHIRLA will continue to work to urge our local governments to create policies aimed at welcoming and embracing immigrants, increase civic participation and equitable representation, create economic opportunities, and accomplish safety for all.
COVID-19 CHIRLA's Federal, State & Local Response
On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The ensuing worldwide crisis exposed systemic weaknesses that hamper immigrant access to key services. Government at all levels must respond swiftly, compassionately, and equitably, always accounting for the unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees.
CHIRLA Advocating for All Immigrants
Watch Angelica Salas on Democracy Now (32:00)
Federal COVID-19 Response Timeline
Aug 5, 2020
March 6, 2020
Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 signed into law. President Trump requested only $1.25 billion, but Congress allocated $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agency response. CHIRLA took no position.
- $3.1 billion for Health and Social Services to develop and purchase vaccines and medical supplies
- Grants created for state, local, and tribal public health agencies and organizations
- $100 million for community health centers
- $950 million for state and local preparedness grants
Aug 5, 2020
March 13, 2020
The federal government declares national emergency and takes the following steps:
- Provides $50 billion to states
- Gives Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to waive requirements for Medicare, Medicaid, and state children’s health insurance
- Waives interest payments on student loans
Aug 5, 2020
March 18, 2020
Families First Coronavirus Response Act allocates $3.47 billion to assist individuals affected by the COVID-19. CHIRLA supports this effort.
- Establishes federally funded paid sick leave
- Requires employers to give workers sick leave
- Expands unemployment benefits
- Increases funding and access to Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Gives employers and the self-employed tax credits to cover paid sick days
Aug 5, 2020
March 19, 2020
Senate Republicans introduce the CARES Act, a $1.6 trillion COVID-19 relief package. CHIRLA opposed it.
- Bailed out industries affected by COVID-19
- No protections for immigrants workers and families were included
Aug 5, 2020
March 23, 2020
House Democrats released Take Responsibility for Workers and Family Act, A $2.5 trillion relief package. CHIRLA supports this effort.
- Ensures that COVID-19 testing and treatment is available and free for anyone who needs it
- Provides more economic protections for workers
- Increases unemployment benefits
- Provides $200 billion to states and $15 billion to local governments to mitigate budget deficits
Aug 5, 2020
March 27, 2020
The Cares Act is signed into law.
- Mitigates public health and economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic
- Provides more access to testing and treatment for the uninsured
- Provides cash payments to families
- Provides enhanced unemployment security for workers
- Immigrants are not included. With more than 50 million immigrants, 12 million of whom are undocumented, this exclusion hurts tens of millions of families.
Aug 5, 2020
April 13, 2020
The addressing extension of employment autorization and immigrants in detention centers during COVID-19.
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) urges the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to utilize its discretionary powers to automatically extend employment authorization for all immigrants whose employment authorization documents (EADs) are about to expire.
- The FIRST Act was introduced by Senator Booker (NJ) and Congresswoman Jayapal (WA) to release the majority of immigrants in civil detention and limit immigration enforcement during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Aug 5, 2020
April 21, 2020
The Trump administration prohibits undocumented college students from receiving emergency federal cash assistance for expenses like food, child care and housing.
- The CARES Act provided $6 billion to higher education institutions The Education Department officials in new guidance directed colleges that only U.S. citizens and some legal permanent residents.
- Excluding, hundreds of thousands of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided work authorization and deportation protections for undocumented immigrant youth.
Aug 5, 2020
April 23, 2020
President Trump issued a proclamation suspending the entry of immigrants into the U.S. for 60 days if:
- They are outside the U.S. as of the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation [April 23, 2020];
- Do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
- Do not have an official travel document other than a visa [i.e. transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document] that is valid on the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the U.S. to seek entry or admission.
Aug 5, 2020
April 24, 2020
Latest COVID-19 rescue package, Supreme Court action and USCIS announcement.
- The President signed the fourth COVID 19 rescue package
- The Supreme Court refuses to halt Trump’s wealth rule despite fear from immigrant families to seek COVID19 treatment and aid.
- U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announces closure of all field offices suspending all in-person services at its field offices until June 4, 2020.
CHIRLA Responds to passage of the CARES Act
Immigrants workers put food on our tables, care for our children and elderly, clean our homes, deliver and stock our groceries, and staff our health care facilities, but the $2 trillion CARES bill excluded them. This is cruel, shortsighted and at odds with any serious attempt to tackle this crisis.
Our Demands On Immigration Enforcement and Detention
- We call for a complete halt of immigration enforcement during this pandemic. In the same week Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Governor Newsom issued a stay-at-home order, ICE agents executed an enforcement operation. After severe pressure, ICE suggested it would halt most arrests and deportations, focusing only on “public safety risks” and people “subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds,” However, no policy directive was issued to provide a uniformity, and detentions instead went up in March.
- We call for the release of all immigrants in, and a halt to any expansion of, detention centers.
- Immigrants face choosing between their health or fighting for a chance to stay. While immigration courts are closed until May 1 for cases involving people out on bond,, they continue to prosecute cases in detention.
- CHIRLA joins 70 advocacy organizations in requesting that all immigration courts close during this pandemic.
California's Actions to Combat COVID-19
In the absence of inclusive and equitable relief for immigrants from the federal government during the emergency, CHIRLA joins 60 organizations in urging California to create a state response for immigrant communities including access testing treatment, and economic relief.
In Newsom’s order, only essential industries and essential workers can operate. About one-third of California’s essential workforce is immigrant, and fills a crucial gap to help California meet this unprecedented challenge. Immigrants care for the sick and ensure our food security during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2016, almost one in four California doctors had graduated from a foreign medical school, a likely sign they were born elsewhere. Also, 121,141 of our nurses (36 percent) are foreign-born. Of the state’s nursing assistants, home health aides and psychiatric workers, 90,217 (44 percent) are foreign-born.
Sean Tan member of the California Dream Network, CHIRLA’s college state-wide youth program, to participate in She the People-Congressional Women of Color Town Hall focused on COVID-19 Relief in Congress. Sean spoke about his own experience, his concerns and asked Rep. Chu a question. Watch the video here (40 min mark).
Los Angeles City and County Actions to Combat COVID-19
On March 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a Safer at Home order that required residents to shelter in place. Since March 4, Garcetti has issued 13 COVID-19 orders, including an emergency declaration, to detail what residents can do and how city workers should respond. The City Council approved $20 million in reserve funds to respond to COVID-19 and activated the Disaster Service Worker program.
In the absence of inclusive and equitable COVID-19 relief from the federal government for immigrants, a coalition of 70 organizations, including CHIRLA, urged the city and county to create a plan to prevent mass evictions, expand county health programs, help those who do not qualify for federal aid, and work with law enforcers to keep from turning immigrants over to ICE.
For the moment, here are the most important city actions:
COVID-19 testing In Los Angeles is free for everyone, though it is currently limited to people showing symptoms or those who can’t work because they’ve been exposed to an infected person. Also, there is priority for the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, and first responders or essential workers. People can apply through a diagnostic portal to determine eligibility. City officials are working to increase capacity for more testing.
A local moratorium on evictions is in place through Garcetti’s emergency order of March 15, which expressly barred landlords from evicting tenants who experience the following:
- Reduced hours or loss of income because of workplace closure
- Loss of income or child care costs because of school closures
- Health care bills because a tenant or a member of the tenant’s household has COVID-19
- Reasonable costs stemming from government emergency measures
- CHIRLA worked with The City and Los Angeles County in the approval of separate measures to create a rental assistance program and expand eviction protections. These programs are likely to be implemented in May, 2020.