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Immigrants are an integral part of California’s communities and the state’s social fabric. They are not just part of the state’s mighty economic engine as taxpayers, entrepreneurs, and members of the workforce — they enrich our cultural identity as the Golden State. They are students, teachers, artists, chefs, religious leaders, colleagues, neighbors, and family members. 

California is home to more immigrants than any other state in the nation. In fact, over half of all California workers are immigrants or children of immigrants. They play a crucial role in building the economic powerhouse that puts California ahead of most countries, now ranked as the fifth largest economy in the world. 

Over the years, California has shown that it can do things differently than other states, demonstrating that it’s possible to welcome people seeking asylum humanely and foster economic growth. Embracing and supporting newly arriving immigrants is not just a moral imperative for the state but a strategic investment in our collective future.

Recent research has shown that new immigrants can have a positive, long-term economic impact on the state’s economic well-being. For example, the Immigration Research Initiative estimated that:

  • On average, each newly arrived immigrant worker can expect to generate $22,000 in income in the first year after their arrival; 
  • Their income potential grows to $32,000 after five years; and 
  • For each 1,000 newly arrived immigrant workers, state and local revenues are estimated to increase by $3.6 million after five years.

Moreover, newly arriving immigrants have the potential to grow the economy and contribute to state and local coffers. This economic benefit is reflected in the success of California’s businesses and overall economy.

People may take some time and need some aid in getting settled, but we ought to afford them grace and patience as they build upon the great legacy of immigrant contributions to our communities and our country as a whole.
David Dyssegaard Kallick
Immigration Research Initiative

In recent years, the number of people seeking asylum and other protection in the US has increased sharply. California remains a top destination for newly arriving individuals and families fleeing danger, persecution, political turmoil, and climate change. 

In light of this, state policymakers should take additional proactive measures to provide humanitarian support to individuals and families seeking safety at the California-Mexico border and the border communities that welcome them with dignity. This includes multi-year budget investments in the rapid response program, such as the $150 million one-time General Fund allocation in last year’s budget to sustain humanitarian support efforts in partnership with local providers at the border. Despite the glaring need for continued investment, the governor did not propose funding for this year. 

State leaders should also continue funding support for immigration legal services, which are a lifeline for immigrant families — not cut them, as proposed by Governor Newsom in the state’s 2024-25 budget plan. The proposed cuts for vital legal services programs, such as the Temporary Protected Status program and the California State University Immigration Legal Services program, are steps in the wrong direction. These cuts would hurt immigrant families and newly arrived families by reducing their access to immigration relief they may be eligible for, such as Temporary Protected Status, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or naturalization. State leaders should take steps to ensure access to legal representation for all Californians who are seeking immigration legal services.

While federal leaders continue to be embroiled in political standoffs and decades-long legislative stalemates when it comes to humane, comprehensive immigration reform policies, the responsibility to take action falls on state and local leadership. 

Embracing and supporting newly arriving immigrants is not just a moral imperative but a strategic investment in our collective prosperity. Our approach should be one of building bridges, not walls, fostering an environment where all Californians have the opportunity to contribute and thrive in the Golden State.

California must ensure that individuals and families seeking safety and asylum have the shelter, services, and support they need to access safety, security, and justice in the Golden State.
Bruno Huizar
California Immigrant Policy Center

Media Contacts

Kyra Moeller
Communications Strategist

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