California Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Give Unemployment Benefits to Illegal Aliens

Young immigrants, activists and supporters of the DACA program march through downtown Los
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Following the example of New York, lawmakers in California have introduced legislation that would provide unemployment payments to people who are in the state illegally and have lost their jobs.

The bill comes after the coronavirus pandemic, which caused many Californians to lose their jobs when government officials shut down businesses and ordered people to stay at home to be “safe.”

The state’s budget is also flush with money the federal government doled out over the course of the pandemic.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote up the news as part of a feature story on a family of illegal aliens who worked in Oakland, California. Most of the extended family lost their jobs because of government policies.

The article included some facts about the bill:

Now a proposed bill, AB-2847, the Excluded Workers Pilot Program, would create a one-year pilot to provide unemployment benefits for undocumented people. Its backers hope to make it permanent.

The state has about 2 million undocumented residents, including about 1.1. million workers, said Edward Flores, associate professor of sociology and co-director of the UC Merced Community and Labor Center, who studies that population.

If passed, the bill would take effect in 2023, at a cost of $690 million — $500 million for benefits and the rest for administration costs. The money would come from the general fund, which is now enjoying a surplus. Under the measure, undocumented workers who lose their jobs could receive $300 a week for up to 20 weeks. (Regular unemployment provides up to $450 a week for up to 26 weeks.)

“We’re trying to make sure that our safety-net programs are there to help all people in need by making everyone eligible,” Assembly member Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), the bill’s sponsor, said. “We’re trying to prevent people going into debt, expending their entire life savings, becoming homeless and hungry.”

“We estimate that 1 in 16 wage earners in California is undocumented,” Garcia said. Those workers generally earn lower wages and have more financial insecurity than other employees.

Last year New York budgeted $2.1 billion to give retroactive payments to illegal aliens who were unemployed during the pandemic.

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