A Historic Moment

Timothy P. Silard, President

What a historic moment for immigrant rights in California. Thanks to the tireless work of advocacy organiations and community leaders, California now is paving the way and providing a roadmap for immigrant rights and integration for the rest of the country. As California Immigrant Policy Center’s Reshma Shamasunder righly says: 2013 truly is the "Year of the Immigrant” in California.


Federal immigration reform is yet to be achieved, but California’s Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law bills that provide and expand critical work, school and civil rights and protections for our immigrant co-workers, friends and neighbors.


Among the exciting new policies is the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which grants basic labor protections to hundreds of thousands of historically marginalized workers who take care of our homes and families. California is third in a growing movement of states to pass these protections. This incredible victory is the result of years of organizing and advocacy by a coalition of visionary leaders and organizations, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Pilipino Workers Center, CHIRLA, and others.


Working together, these organizationa mobilized thousands of workers, mostly immigrant women, helping them step out of the shadows to fight against an injustice rooted in the shameful legacy of slavery. During the last century, when basic federal labor protections were enacted, domestic workers (as well as farmworkers) were specifically denied those protections in exchange for Southern support. The Californa Domestic Worker Bill of Rights takes a significant step toward ensuring that domestic workers can at long last enjoy the rights and protections afforded other workers.


The landmark bill will affect more than 200,000 domestic workers in California, nearly three-quarters of whom are immigrants and 67 percent of whom are Latina. As such it is a significant milestone for work at the intersection of economic equality and immigrant rights, and part of an exciting and accelerating effort to improve wages and conditions for immigrants and all Californians working in low-wage jobs.


Other significant victories include enactment of the TRUST Act, which limits the costly and unfair use of California jails as holding cells for immigrants facing deportation; a bill that provides drivers’ licenses for undocumented Californians; and legislation that protects immigrant workers who are standing up their labor rights from employer retaliation. The California Immigrant Policy Center reports that, since September, Gov. Brown has signed “more than a dozen bills to support full inclusion of immigrants into our state and communities.” Our hope is that these victories not only inspire other states but also the country as a whole to adopt common-sense approaches and policies around immigration and immigrant integration.


Understanding that immigrants are vital to our economy and our communities, the Rosenberg Foundation long has invested in work that ensures that immigrant populations are fully integrated into the state’s social and economic fabric. Many California foundations also have invested over the long term in building the sophisticated advocacy infrastructure that has moved significant policy change in the state. The exciting accomplishments of immigrants’ rights organizations and coalitions across California shows how much can be achieved when foundations support organizing, movement building, coalition building, and civic engagement strategies.


Along with our partners in philanthropy and leaders across the state, we look forward to continuing to support the fight for fair immigration policies that uphold our basic values, protect the rights we hold dear, and improve conditions for immigrant youth and families across our state and country.