Friday, December 23, 2011

Proposal to Integrate Undocumented Immigrants in California

Here's an interesting integration idea outlined by the Mexican American Political Alliance:

The California Opportunity and Prosperity Act (COPA)
Help Restore California's Economy through Integrating Qualified Immigrants

After fifteen years of bipartisan failure in D.C. to fix our broken immigration laws, it is time for California to lead the U.S. by example by enacting by ballot initiative a new law that gives qualified unauthorized residents who pay state income taxes the option to enter a program whose participants may gain relief from federal enforcement and whose labor may be decriminalized.

COPA Benefits to California's Budget and Society It is estimated that COPA could generate as many as a million new taxpayers1 who could contribute an estimated $325 millions of dollars annually in general revenue to California that will be used to fund desperately needed police and fire services, etc.

COPA does this by enacting a five year pilot, self-financed program in which participants gain entrance by meeting certain thresholds.

The participants are undocumented California residents who pay state income tax with a federal Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN); and can meet the following thresholds:

1. Have no felony convictions and are not suspected terrorists;

2. Know or are learning English;

3. Pay processing fee and provide a photo;

4. Are not public charges;

5. Have lived in California since before January 1, 2008;

COPA participants must continue to use a federal Individual Tax Identification Number to continue paying income taxes and pay annual renewal fee to remain in the program.

COPA directs California's Governor to petition the President and other federal agencies to: Provide relief and or exemptions from federal immigration enforcement actions against COPA members and their families; and decriminalize employment of COPA members.

Conceptually, COPA is based upon successful elements of the bipartisan Immigration and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) signed by then-President Ronald Reagan. IRCA's most successful element or "General Legalization" program's eligibility criteria is replicated in the thresholds used for eligibility in COPA. COPA is enacted within the confines of the California Constitution, state and local law.

COPA follows successful efforts in California to enable qualified undocumented students to access private and state financial aid (AB130/AB131), and to end abusive police towing of vehicles owned by undocumented persons (AB353).

COPA continues the proud California tradition of trailblazing innovative US public policy as it has in the area of women's suffrage, environmental protection, and access to cannabis for medical uses.

1 According to a UCLA NAID Center research report by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda and Marshall Fitz published in April 2011 with the Center for American Progress entitled "Revitalizing the Golden State What Legalization Over Deportation Could Mean to California and Los Angeles County", the undocumented population in California was estimated by the 2006-2008 American Community Survey (US Census Bureau) to be 2,700,000, of which 1.85 million were estimated to be employed in the work force, generating over 157 billion in Gross State Product of California. It is also estimated that there are an additional 500, 00 undocumented residents who are either under 18 or are family members of employed individuals.

Since net immigration flow have declined since the beginning of the crisis in 2007 to California and the U.S., it conservatively estimated that at least 75 to 85% of the estimated 2.6 million undocumented in California today could qualify under the terms of COPA.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who supports COPA?

COPA has a growing list of supporters. It was proposed by John Cruz of Orange County, a Republican and former Secretary of Appointments for Governor Schwarzenegger, and the Honorable Felipe Fuentes, a Democratic Assemblyman from the San Fernando Valley. COPA is also supported by members of the California Latino Legislative Caucus including Chairman Tony Mendoza, Asm. Ben Hueso, Asm. Manuel Pérez, Asm. Gil Cedillo, Sen. Ron Calderón, and Sen. Kevin De León.

In addition, COPA has the endorsement of Confederación de Federaciones Mexicanas (COFEM), Latino/Latina Roundtable of Pomona and San Gabriel Valleys (LRT), Community Union (CU), Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamérica (HML), Anahuak Youth Sports Association (AYSA), William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI), Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), and the Latino Voters League (LVL).

2. What makes you think that COPA has a chance to succeed in California?

COPA's concept is very popular with the voters of all stripes according to our polls and focus groups, testing at more than 60% support. This includes Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

California public opinion is leading the US towards reconciliation with immigrants. Californians have dealt with this issue for two decades are increasingly reaching a consensus for fair and humane treatment of immigrants.

3. How much revenue can COPA raise for California's General Fund?

Given the thresholds in COPA, 75% of California's undocumented population would be eligible to apply for status.

Implementing COPA could generate $325 million dollars in annual general fund revenue for California's state government as the new taxpayers come into the system.

4. What does COPA do?

COPA forms a five year pilot project that encourages certain immigrants to pay state income tax and potentially allows those who do to gain relief from federal enforcement and decriminalizes members' employment. Moreover it would pay for itself and allow immigrants to contribute to California's economy with their taxes and labor.

It would also lift the burden of illegality off COPA employers' shoulders as well as diminish the cheap labor pool.

It would help reset the national debate on federal immigration policy by showing that an inclusive rather than punitive policy framework is both more humane and effective.


5. Who can join COPA?

Undocumented California residents who pay state income tax with a federal Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)); and can meet the following thresholds:

1. Have no felony convictions and are not suspected terrorists;

2. Know or are learning English;

3. Pay processing fee and provide a photo;

4. Are not public charges;

5. Have lived in California since before January 1, 2008;

6. Isn't immigration reform a federal responsibility?

Yes. COPA doesn't deal with US borders, legalization, visas or US Citizenship. Those powers belong to the federal government. COPA simply says that persons duly qualified as Californians that meet the above requirements should have relief from federal enforcement and have their work decriminalized.

7. Shouldn't we wait for Congress or the President to act on immigration reform?

We have waited for fifteen years. We had been writing letters, marching and visiting our representatives in Washington, DC. And 2010's elections show that "immigration reform" will be log-jammed for at least another 4-6 years. Approving COPA will provide relief and fairness to qualified unauthorized immigrants in California now until federal reform is enacted at some point in the future.

Moreover COPA provides a political and policy response to SB1070 in Arizona which turbocharged an already existing anti-immigrant wave across the country, in essence overwhelming the immigrant rights movement. Approving COPA will prod Washington to enact a national reform program sooner than later.

8. Won't COPA be struck down in the courts?

Not at all. COPA leaves federal immigration prerogatives in place with regard to citizenship, entering/leaving the country, and border control. Any other conflicts with federal law can be handled by exemptions for California gained through engagement between Governor Brown and the White House.

One good example of COPA's legal theory is that of Medical Marijuana. According to federal law, consumption of marijuana is illegal. Yet 15 states have enacted laws permitting conditional medicinal consumption, and have withstood court challenge as well as Federal/Congressional scrutiny/intervention. As a result millions of Americans are now conditionally consuming medical marijuana in the fifteen states where it has been legislatively approved. States rights are real in the U.S. and have to be invoked in the cause of commonsense treatment of immigrants!

Want to learn more, Read the COPA initiative, and see our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)? Visit our webpage



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