Bonta, Alejo, and Low Join Jose Antonio Vargas to Promote New Immigration Programs for APIs
Vargas says getting his license was the “happiest day” of his life
Jose Antonio Vargas presents his new driver’s license to the crowd during Tuesday’s press conference at the State Capitol.
(Sacramento, CA) – Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Evan Low (D-San Jose), and Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) were honored this week to welcome Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and the founder of Define American, Jose Antonio Vargas, to the State Capitol to highlight why the Safe and Responsible Driver Act (AB 60) and the President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action are important to the Asian Pacific Islander community.
As the first and only Filipino American state legislator in the history of California, Assemblymember Bonta is committed to increasing API awareness of the new programs. “Over 1 million of the nation’s undocumented immigrants are API, and 416,000 of them live in California. That means that close to half of all of the undocumented API community in the entire nation live in California. Now is the time for the API community to be fully engaged in and fully committed to the immigration discussion.”
Bonta explained that California is uniquely affected by the two new immigration programs in that it is home to the largest number of immigrants in the entire country. “It is estimated that 1.4 million undocumented residents in California will apply for a driver’s license in the next 3 years, making it possible for hundreds of thousands of immigrants to participate in the important daily routines of life, like driving one’s children to school or driving to work, without fear of deportation.”
Assemblymember Luis Alejo, author of the historic AB 60, which allows undocumented residents to apply for a driver’s license in California, explained the importance of engaging the API community in the new opportunity. “Most of the immigration debate has focused heavily on the Latino population and I think it’s important to make sure that we engage California’s second largest minority population. Through this effort, I know that California’s diverse communities are one step closer to making their American Dream reality.”
“Getting my license was the happiest day of my life,” explained featured speaker, Jose Antonio Vargas, who passed the California driving test last week. Vargas proudly showed his new driver’s license to the crowd and thanked the Legislature and Governor for their work. “Thousands of undocumented residents are getting the license because we are part of this community---the farmworkers, the day laborers, the home care workers, the students. This is our home. I cannot overstate the value of this piece of paper and what it means to me, my family, and my friends. A driver’s license for people like us is more than just a driver’s license. If you are undocumented, this license proves that you exist, that you are recognized, that you aren’t illegal---because human being are not illegal.”
Speakers also discussed applying for reprieve under the President’s Immigration Executive Action. “In California, about 50 percent of our undocumented population is potentially eligible for administrative relief,” explained Angela Chan, Policy Director and senior staff attorney at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “That’s 1.6 million out of our total estimated population of 3.2 million undocumented Californians.”
Assemblymember Evan Low concluded, “As it so often goes, California is once again leading the nation. The passage of AB 60 has allowed immigrants who work hard and pay their taxes to now safely drive to work, and take their kids to school. It is imperative that we maximize the momentum established by AB 60 and President Obama’s Executive Action to achieve true immigration reform for the API and all immigrant communities.”
Here’s more in this Assembly Access video.
Assemblymember Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. Bonta Chairs the Assembly Health Committee; the Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security Committee; and the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay. He is also a member of the following committees: Appropriations, Budget, Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services, Joint Legislative Budget, Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, and the Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color.