No-brainer: Passing immigration reform could help California dig its way out of its fiscal mess

LatinaLista — Today’s big headline blogged and tweeted was that minority births now outnumber white births.

Latinos takes to the streets in LA in 2007 during immigrant marches.

It wasn’t a big surprise. Some had thought this already happened. Yet, the headline itself is just a headline. It doesn’t mean anything to the average person if it isn’t relevant to their lives. Most of us don’t work in maternity wards to count these bundles of crying joy to tally them up.

But there’s another headline that is much more relevant — Hispanics will be majority in California by 2013.

That means something and it should be enough incentive for California to not only realize what awaits them but relay that same message to Congress.

According to the article:

Hispanics will eclipse whites, who have dominated California since statehood, sometime in 2013. Since 1990, the white population has declined by 2.1 million while the Hispanic population has grown by 6.3 million.

Bill Schooling, chief of demographic research at the state Department of Finance, had expected the tipping point to come later than 2013. But he agreed the Register’s calculations appeared correct.

“We’ll see some interesting changes to come,” Schooling said. In contrast with the 1950s, when most Californians came from other U.S. states, he said, today most Californians either are natives of the Golden State or are foreign-born.

According to the 2010 American Community Survey, 62 percent of California Hispanics are native-born Americans and another 12 percent are naturalized citizens. The remaining 26 percent, 3.7 million people in all, are not citizens.

It’s that last sentence that is a game-changer. Twenty-six percent are not citizens. In a state that is home to some of the highest grossing Silicon Valley-based businesses, it’s ironic that the state is experiencing a $15.7 billion deficit, up 70 percent since January, easily the worst in the country.

California Gov. Jerry Brown’s response to the fiscal time bomb? Austerity measures. That means higher taxes, cuts in social services and education. Each measure would be painful to whomever it affects. We don’t have to look far — say, Greece — to know what happens to people when austerity measures like what California is thinking about are implemented.

From suicides, an increase in homelessness and poverty and no resources for these people to fall back on, austerity just exasperates these issues that already affect countries, states and cities around the world without having austerity measures be the official strategy.

Yet, what is so striking about California’s case is that the state has the potential to make up a portion of the deficit — let that 26 percent, over a quarter of the state’s population, legally work.

Yes, it would mean passing immigration reform and creating both a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for those who want it but the benefits of having this population actively contribute to the state’s economy should be a no-brainer and is long overdue.

On top of that, California is home to many undocumented students who have their college degrees. If they were granted legal status, imagine the workforce that could be dispatched to put California back on its feet. Since Latino graduates are young, a work program modeled after service-oriented examples could be created to give these young people the opportunity to finally put their degrees to use, gain work experience, give back to California and fulfill whatever requirements would be needed to gain full citizenship.

California isn’t just hurting anymore. If taxes are raised and social service programs cut and college tuition hiked to the extent the governor says, the people of California will suffer — and needlessly if state and national legislators don’t wake up to the fact that immigration reform is no longer an issue to be debated — but one that is needed.

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