Assemblymember Chiu Moves to Create State Agency for Immigrants and Refugees

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Legislation would create the California Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Agency

San Francisco, CA—Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) announced a bill today that would create a state agency focused on serving immigrant and refugee populations. Assembly Bill 1113 would establish the California Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Agency and create a Secretary of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

“Our immigrant communities are what make our state vibrant and strong,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “In California, we not only welcome our immigrant communities with open arms, but we also want to help them succeed. This new state agency is about helping our immigrant and refugee families and neighbors.”

The current federal administration has taken a xenophobic and inhumane approach towards immigrant and refugee communities with families seeking asylum torn apart at the border, children locked in cages, and suspicious deaths at detention facilities. 

California, with over 10 million immigrants and refugees, has the largest immigrant population in the country and an important governmental interest in ensuring the well-being of its immigrant communities. In the midst of the suffering and fear created by the Trump Administration, California has sought to provide a sanctuary for immigrants and refugees by passing multiple laws to ensure they feel secure in their communities and have adequate resources to succeed. 

Nearly a dozen state agencies already provide services to immigrants and refugees including financial assistance, legal representation, health care, driver’s licenses, and student financial aid. While many state agencies provide services to immigrant and refugee communities, there is not yet a comprehensive approach to integrate current policies and programs.

In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown created the “Statewide Director of Immigrant Integration” position which has been crucial to assessing the challenges immigrants and refugees face in the state. However, one position has been inadequate to address the diverse needs of 10 million people. 

AB 1113 would create a single state agency to evaluate programs holistically and work to better serve California’s immigrant and refugee populations. The agency would be tasked with evaluating the accessibility and effectiveness of existing programs, coordinating integration efforts among state and local agencies, and creating policy and budget proposals to address the needs of immigrants and refugees. The bill establishes an executive position, the Secretary of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and creates two deputy positions. 

Local governments across California as well as Massachusetts, New York, and Michigan have created offices to serve and integrate immigrant and refugee populations. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) is sponsoring AB 1113.

“California must be bold as the Trump Administration seems to criminalize immigrant families,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA. “AB 1113 will institutionalize immigrant integration in the Golden State.”

AB 1113 is expected to be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on April 9.

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