California Democrats have introduced a package of 10 bills aimed to expand protections for undocumented immigrants in the state.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the new pieces of legislation would offer poor undocumented immigrants state-subsidized health care coverage, make it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on immigration status or language spoken, and make it more difficult for federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
The bills would also establish an Office of New Americans to help immigrants through bureaucratic paperwork, help immigrant victims of crime apply for special federal visas and improve protections for immigrant workers.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said the series of bills is a direct response to the Republican-led Congress's "intellectual laziness" and "lack of work ethic" regarding the issue. The Los Angeles Democrat added the legislation would expand the potential of both undocumented and documented immigrants.
"Our food, our clothing, our music, art and technology — these are industries central to California's advancement, and they're all driven by immigrants," de León said during a news conference in Sacramento.
The bills were met with opposition by anti-immigration groups, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
Joe Guzzardi, the national media director for Californians for Population Stabilization, told reporters, "These proposals are the latest in a seemingly endless set of legislation designed to make illegal immigration a more comfortable thing. People living in Mexico and Central America are only going to want to come here more."
While California has led the way in terms of immigration reform, the Mercury News noted the legislative package's hefty price tag may become an issue.
A complete analysis of the legislation's cost has not been done, but de León told reporters he expects his colleagues to keep the price low.
California Republicans have shied away from Republican legislators in Washington DC as they attempt to regain support in the state.
In a statement released 7 April, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff said, "We understand the burdens facing immigrants who want to go to work and raise their families in safe neighborhoods — and the rationale behind these bills is admirable."
However, he added, "Without money from Congress and President Obama, it will be very difficult and costly for California taxpayers to fund all of these bill proposals."
According to the Mercury News, the bill sponsored by Senator Ricardo Lara that would expand health care for the undocumented, would likely be the most costly.