Exploratory Steps for State and Local Leaders
Taking Stock of State and Local Laws
Immigration reform is a multi-faceted issue. The policy issues are intertwined and encompass policies related to official identification, access to and competency of public services, language, housing, employment, and law enforcement policies. A thorough examination of these policies is a necessary starting point for any community pondering immigration reform. The City of Santa Clara, CA has a comprehensive assortment of reports and studies assessing the entire public policy matrix related to immigration.
Develop a profile of immigrant communities
American immigrants come to the US from nearly every nation on the globe. Although there are commonalities, the experiences of each group are distinct and the issues most pressing to any one group may be somewhat unique. Understanding the specific demographics of a community is critical as is having knowledge of the social and economic trajectories of each. The city of San Diego and the state of New York are examples of localities that have approached this inquiry in a comprehensive fashion.
Convene leaders from across sectors
As is the case with many policy issues, it is impossible to operate or affect change within a silo. Moreover, successful policy initiatives are characterized by coordination and collaboration across sectors. The City of Chicago has a regional model for devising strategies related to immigration issues (Chicago’s Metropolitan Mayors Caucus).
INNOVATIONS ACROSS AMERICA
Chicago Entrepreneurship Initiatives
Action Space: City Level
Cost: Varies by program
Mechanism: City ordinances and contracts (Link to City Resource Page)
The culture of entrepreneurship is stronger in many immigrant communities than it is in the US as a whole. The City of Chicago is noteworthy for its efforts to build bridges and create opportunities for immigrants in entrepreneurship. One of the primary focus areas is in lowering barriers to launching business ventures like streamlining permitting processes, creating targeted outreach materials, and identifying start-up funding for interested individuals.
- Creating Strong Partnerships: Implementation required concerted action between the business, nonprofit, and government sectors to address overt policies of discrimination and to set the foundation for a cultural shift in the community.
- Identify and Leverage Community Assets: These communities were successful in the identification of strategic assets in immigrant communities that can be used to create industrial networks to accelerate business growth.
Illinois Immigrant Health Initiative
Action Space: State Level
Cost: Estimated at $46 to $50 million per year
Mechanism: Enabling 2020 Legislation HB0357
The State of Illinois was the first in the nation to extend health coverage to undocumented senior citizens. The state’s program is a means-tested initiative that covers residents aged 65 and older who are undocumented or are legal permanent residents. The state was also the first to cover care for immigrant children. It is anticipated that the state will realize significant savings in indigent care down the road from the provision of preventive care services.
- Creating Broad Coverage: The program covers hospital visits, prescriptions, and dental and vision care to undocumented Illinois residents (and green card holders) who are at or below the poverty level.
- Calibrate Program Scope with Costs: The Illinois program is projected to cover between 4,200 and 4,600 immigrant seniors annually.
Texas Dream Act
Action Space: State Level
Cost: Program cost $12 million in 2016
Mechanism: Enabling Legislation 2001 HB1403
Texas Dream Act: At least 17 states offer some form of a Dream Act that allows unauthorized immigrant youth to pay in-state tuition rates for college. Because they feature varying eligibility criteria and other elements, these policies differ widely in their impacts. In a 2015 report, the Migration Policy Institute assesses these differences and provides insights for localities seeking to adopt their own versions.
- Broad Eligibility for Impact: The Texas program was implemented in 2001 and provides in-state tuition and grant eligibility to students regardless of immigrant status. Students must only have dependent status in Texas for three years, be a Texas high school graduate (or obtain a GED), and seek permanent residency.
- Emphasizing the Big Picture: Supporters were strategic in their advocacy by providing estimates of the tremendous impact on the state’s economy via increased earning power of participants and higher taxes paid to state and local governments.