A bill that would grant illegal immigrants the right to sit on state boards and commissions has been introduced in the California State Senate. Senate Bill 174 amends an existing state law that prohibits individuals from holding office if they are not a U.S. citizen at the time of their appointment.
The bill was introduced by State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). “California is stronger when we utilize talents of all our residents, and opening state and local boards and commissions to every Californian will allow us to better serve our diverse communities,” he said.
“Undocumented Californians are our neighbors, co-workers and parents, and as lawmakers we can’t make good policy if their voices are left out of the discussion,” he added.
Lara’s office said that each board or commission will have to review federal law to see whether an individual can be compensated for their work. Federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from seeking paid positions.
The proposal comes as tensions between California and the Trump administration have risen in recent months over illegal immigration and the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on it.
In March the Department of Justice announced a lawsuit against California over its “sanctuary” immigration policies. The lawsuit alleges that the state obstructs the federal government from enforcing immigration laws.
“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told California law enforcement officers at the time. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe we are going to win.”
California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the lawsuit in a statement to ITN at the time, justifying California’s actions in defending its undocumented immigrant population.
“We’ve seen time and again that this administration is targeting all undocumented immigrants for deportation. Immigrants who are law-abiding, working and contributing to their communities are just as likely to be picked up as those with serious criminal records and who pose a threat to public safety. It makes no sense,” she wrote.
Lara has also introduced bills that would expand health care coverage to undocumented immigrants in past years, including a bill proposed this year that would offer Medi-Cal coverage, the state’s Medicaid program, to undocumented adults.
Photo of State Sen. Ricardo Lara by U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr