By Bao Nguyen, Garden Grove Mayor
Editor's note: Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen's stirring story is well-known to longtime OC Weekly readers, so we're more than happy to print his op-ed on a proposal before California Governor Jerry Brown. Enjoy!
"Reigniting California's Immigrant Legacy Through DACA, DAPA, and Citizenship"
To some, my immigrant story- from my birth in a Thai refugee camp to my election as Mayor of Garden Grove - makes quite an impression. But as we mark Immigrant Heritage Month this June, I'd like to take a look at the bigger picture: how immigrant contributions are helping to drive this Golden State forward.
With this backdrop in mind, I urge Governor Brown and state legislators to reignite California's legacy of shared prosperity and invest in a comprehensive approach to immigrant integration like the One California budget proposal.
California's diverse immigrant communities shape the fabric of our state through their economic and cultural contributions. Immigrants are a fundamental part of the California workforce, contributing nearly a third of the state's GDP, fueling our state's economic engine by nearly $650 billion a year. Furthermore, our state continues to prosper from the spending power of immigrant households, whose income makes up over a fourth of the state's total household income.
However, immigrant communities across California still face distinct challenges to accessing life-changing opportunities like "Deferred Action" and citizenship, which can bring relief from deportation, economic stability, and boost civic potential.
Take the city of Garden Grove, which I serve. Garden Grove is home to over 47,000 Vietnamese-Americans and comes second only to San Jose as the city with the most Vietnamese-Americans in the U.S. outside of Vietnam.
With large Asian Pacific Islander and Latino/a immigrant communities in California, state leaders are paying attention to their needs and aspirations. Thus, it is no surprise that the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus and the Latino Legislative Caucus have recognized the importance of streamlining the road to opportunity for California's immigrant communities, and have prioritized the One California budget proposal as part of their budget agenda.
The One California budget proposal would invest $20 million to support access for eligible immigrant communities to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), or citizenship. The proposal would strengthen the reach of qualified non-profit organizations who provide culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance, legal services, and application preparation. With the largest eligible population for DACA, DAPA, and citizenship, the continued prosperity of our state and its residents depends on these types of investments.
By investing robustly in the One California proposal, we can maximize efforts of trusted community organizations already working to assist and empower California's diverse immigrants. Through qualified outreach, information and assistance, they can combat notario fraud by unscrupulous actors who target immigrant communities.
As a former refugee and naturalized citizen, I fully recognize the importance of access to trusted support on my own road to citizenship and the incredible impact citizenship provides for an individual and their community. Our Governor and legislators have an opportunity to honor California's immigrant heritage and contributions by advancing budget proposals like One California, that bring security for families through relief from deportation and economic stability through DACA, DAPA, and citizenship.
To be sure, the Governor has voiced his support for immigrant communities and made an indication in his May Budget Revision to support legal assistance towards DACA and DAPA. However the proposed allocation of $5 million falls far short of the robust investment needed to support fuller inclusion of California's immigrants.
To yield the largest impact, I urge our Governor to support One California at the full $20 Million to more broadly reach eligible immigrants for DACA, DAPA, and citizenship.
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Just as I have borne witness to the powerful opportunities of citizenship, I urge the Governor to help unlock the civic and economic potential of California's diverse immigrant communities. Through One California, let's reignite the legacy of California's immigrant contributions and fortify a vision of shared prosperity for all Californians. ___________
Bao Nguyen serves as Mayor of the City of Garden Grove. Mayor Nguyen holds a Master's Degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and a certification in mediation from the Dispute Resolution Program of the Orange County Human Relations Commission.