Democratic Assemblyman Manuel Perez introduced a legislative bill in California that would have a serious, positive impact for many hardworking immigrants here. The bill is known as the California Agricultural Jobs and Industry Stabilization Act of 2012.
Also known by its more formal name of AB 1544, this bill would allow certain working immigrants to work legally in California. If an immigrant has been working for at least 150 days and is making true efforts to learn the English language, then, for a fee, that same immigrant may qualify for employment authorization papers. Not only the immigrant, but his or her spouse and children may also be eligible to obtain permission to live in the United States legally. Of course, any criminals would not be permitted to apply for legal status under this bill. If the bill is passed, all applicants must send in a fingerprint and background check.
This law demonstrates the importance that hard working immigrants have for the Californian economy. Currently, California has a $37.5 billion agricultural economy that rests on immigrant workers in fields who spend long hours harvesting and picking crops. If immigrants were not willing to endure the heat, long hours, and back breaking labor, then California’s agricultural economy would sink because US citizens would be less willing to take on these jobs.
In addition to agriculture workers, immigrants also take on other types of jobs like domestic services including housekeeping and janitors, as well as work in many fast food restaurants. This new bill would also apply to these immigrants.
So far, AB 1544 has been passed by the Assembly of Labor and Employment Committee by a majority vote. Now, an appropriations committee must approve the bill. After that, it will reach Assembly floor where assembly members will vote on whether or not to pass the act.
The bill faces certain obstacles. For example, it is not enough if the California state legislature approves the bill. The federal government must also approve the bill. Also, those who support the bill must find a way to prove that the difficult jobs that are taken by immigrants would not be taken by American workers. The employment rate in California is 11%; in order for the bill to pass, it must be proven that those unemployed Americans in California would not accept the jobs that immigrants currently take.
There are high hopes for AB 1544. The California economy cannot afford to lose its labor force, and the reality is that the agricultural sector relies on labor that immigrants offer. Even if this bill does not make it past the federal government, it will still have an important impact on our immigration policies. Other states may realize the impact that immigrants have on their economies, prompting further action from state assemblies to increase pathways to legalization for immigrants.