Yesterday, the California Assembly took a bold step toward addressing the often-devastating consequences of a minor drug law violation, such as deportation and the loss of federal housing and educational benefits. The Assembly vote was 21-15, with 4 members absent. The bill has already been passed by the California Senate, and now heads to Governor Brown’s desk for approval.
Currently, convictions for minor drug law violations result in much harsher consequences for noncitizens. The consequences can be immediate and devastating, including deportation, mandatory detention, and permanent separation of families.
Half of California’s children live in households headed by at least one foreign-born parent – and the majority of these children are U.S. citizens. Approximately 50,000 parents of U.S. citizen children in California were deported in a little over two years, leaving many children parentless. This is particularly devastating to families in California, the most immigrant-rich state in the U.S.
The legislation – a priority bill for the Latino Caucus authored by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman – brought together a unique coalition of national, state and local groups. The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the National Council of La Raza, the Immigration Legal Resource Center, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Drug Policy Alliance came together to co-sponsor the bill, which is also supported by more than three dozen organizations throughout the state.
It was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times editorial board, who stated that this “new approach would treat potential citizens the same way full citizens are treated when it comes to minor drug infractions. And it rightly emphasizes recovery and rehabilitation over incarceration.”
“Deportation for minor drug law violations destroys California families. Legislators are thankfully taking a more responsible approach to incarceration and deportation,” said Armando Gudiño, Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. Gudiño went on to say that “California is setting a new model for the nation with this landmark legislation that ensures immigrant families are not separated for petty drug law violations.”