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California is an amazing place to live and build a future for you and your family. Known for many great things, one of the most incredible things about the Golden State is its diverse population of immigrants who call California their home. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, nearly half of the state's children have at least one immigrant parent, one-third of the working population is foreign-born, and nearly one in four residents are immigrants. This unique melting pot of residents is a large part of what makes California so great.

The legal team at Familia America knows just how difficult the process of immigrating to California can be. With complicated paperwork and many complex steps to follow, having our experienced team on your side can truly be the difference when it comes to building and sustaining a life here. Here are just some of the many ways that California immigrants can navigate this difficult journey as well as some resources to help make the most of all the opportunities California provides:

California 'Sanctuary State' Law

Taking effect on January 1, 2018, Senate Bill 54, also known as the California Values Act, builds upon already existing sanctuary policies. This Bill requires non-cooperation between state and federal law enforcement authorities regarding issues related to the enforcement of immigration laws.

Law Enforcement and Immigration in California

California is well-known for respecting the rights of its undocumented citizens, especially in situations involving state or local law enforcement agencies. California prohibits these entities from the following actions:

  • Detaining an individual based on federal government hold requests is only permissible if there is a felony or an existing warrant.
  • The transfer of undocumented immigrants into federal custody is only authorized if they have been convicted of a relevant crime mentioned within the California Trust Act within the last 15 years or if they are a registered sex offender.
  • Inquiring about an individual's immigration status.
  • The sharing of any information with federal immigration authorities.

Employment Checks

Employers are legally required to verify the work authorization of potential employees as per federal laws. The federal employment eligibility verification rules and the requirements for Form I-9 should be consulted for guidance. Additionally, in 2012, specific legislation was enacted to facilitate farm workers' access to labor unions, irrespective of their immigration status. These laws have made advocating for workers' rights in the state much easier.

California E-Verify Law

Although several other states require the utilization of E-Verify, California legislation has recently restricted the use of the system within the state. These restrictions include prohibiting cities and counties from running mandatory E-Verify ordinances for state employers. Private employers, however, may still voluntarily opt to do so.

Driver's License and ID Requirements

The state of California requires that those who apply for a state ID card must show verification of their date of birth as well as proof of legal residence. Some examples of these documents include Social Security cards and visas. This requirement applies to driver's licenses, limiting undocumented citizens' access to obtaining one.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Federal law prohibits those living in the country illegally from receiving public benefits, however, they may still receive emergency services. These emergency services also include emergency health care services. They are also eligible for other programs if they are deemed "necessary to protect life and safety." California is an exceptional example as it provides migrants with a wide range of medical services and other benefits that are not available in other states.

Education and Immigration in California

Undocumented individuals in many states are typically required to pay out-of-state tuition fees. However, in California, they have the option to pay in-state tuition fees, thanks to the implementation of the California DREAM Act. This policy specifically applies to public universities, and additional laws ensure that undocumented students are eligible for state-funded financial aid.

Moreover, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in California can enjoy certain benefits that are unavailable to other migrant youths in different states. They also qualify for these benefits under the provisions of the DREAM Act.

The DACA program provides protection against deportation for eligible young adults who were brought to the United States as children by their parents. It further grants them work authorization for limited periods, with the option to renew. For further information about DACA, and the benefits that come with it, you can review FindLaw's What is DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals? as well as USCIS's FAQ page.

California Fair Employment and Housing

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) serves as California's agency responsible for upholding civil rights. DFEH enforces the state's laws against discrimination and harassment in various areas, including employment, housing, business establishments, state-funded programs, bias-motivated violence, and human trafficking. DFEH is fully committed to ensuring that all individuals in California, regardless of their immigration status, can live free from any form of discrimination.

Under California law, you are protected from being terminated from your job, harassed, treated unfairly compared to your colleagues in the same position, and experiencing other types of discrimination based on your race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, age (40 and over), and other protected characteristics. There are also specific safeguards concerning immigration status, citizenship, language, and housing. These protections include being shielded from eviction, being denied housing, facing increased rent charges, being denied necessary repairs, and facing other forms of discrimination based on factors such as race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, source of income, and other protected bases. If your landlord or housing provider qualifies as a business, you are also protected from housing discrimination related to your citizenship, immigration status, or primary language.

If you think you've been a victim of discrimination, contact DFEH.

Website: dfeh.ca.gov

Phone: 800.884.1684

Helpful Links and Information

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and are therefore separate from the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). For more information about those DHS offices, please see the following links:

California Farmworker Foundation Information

The California Farmworker Foundation (CFF) was established with the goal of providing opportunities for Farmworkers in California to enhance their personal and professional skills. Their services span across five key areas: Education, Health & Wellness, Workforce Development, Immigration Services, and Community Engagement.

California Non-Governmental Agencies That Assist Immigrants

Are you a victim of human trafficking?

Refugee Programs Bureau

The goal of the Refugee Programs Bureau (RPB) is to offer leadership and coordination at the state level to ensure the successful resettlement and integration of vulnerable populations in California. Our vision is to empower individuals to thrive and develop in communities across California.

Who Does The RPB Serve?

Refugee youth, adults, families, and other vulnerable populations including:

What Does the RPB Do?

The RPB oversees culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate services that help clients attain the skills needed to achieve self-sufficiency and successful integration. We achieve our goals by partnering with counties, resettlement agencies, school districts, and community-based organizations. These programs include:

For Information about programs for youth please visit the Office of Immigrant Youth web page.

Population-Specific Information

P.O. Box 944243, MS 9-6-646

Sacramento, CA  94244-2430

(916) 654-4356


Familia America Is Here To Help

If you or someone you care about is in need of legal guidance or assistance with immigration services and resources in California, do not hesitate to get in touch with Familia America. As specialists in immigration law, we are dedicated to assisting you in navigating the complexities of the process. We firmly believe that everyone has the right to pursue new opportunities and build a better life. Reach out to us today to arrange a consultation. Allow us to be your guiding force on your immigration journey.

Success Stories

At Familia America, our California immigration lawyer has helped thousands of people in their immigration journey. Here are some of their stories.

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Contact a Salt Lake City Fiancé Visa Attorney at Familia America Today

Attorney Gloria Cardenas brings more than 30 years of experience in immigration law to help protect the rights of clients and their family members. She and her knowledgeable team at Familia America work diligently behind the scenes to help process fiancé visa applications as quickly as possible. To learn more, contact the legal professionals at Familia America in Salt Lake City and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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