Above: A young woman marching through Long Beach streets during the 2019 annual May Day march for immigrant rights. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Solorzano.
LONG BEACH, Calif. — While Long Beach’s immigrants overall make up more than a quarter of the city’s population, according to New American Economy (NAE) data — more than 30,000 of them still remained undocumented as of 2016.
Most of them have come from Mexico, with some from the Philippines, India, and Central America to settle in enclaves such as Cambodia Town or the unofficial Little Manila that is West Long Beach.
For all its diversity, Long Beach ranks 19th — towards the bottom — among 21 pacific coast cities for immigrant integration, according to NAE.
In past years, immigrant coalitions here have pushed for protective policies and in 2018 city leaders finally responded with “sanctuary” ordinances. More recently, Long Beach heralded in a new Long Beach Justice Fund to help pay for immigrants’ legal fees.
And despite aggressive moves by the Trump administration to revise green card qualifications, 2020 will see healthcare expansions for undocumented adults in California. Below are tips on all these resources and updates that may benefit local immigrants and their families.
If you or someone you know
is facing removal proceedings and needs legal counsel,
call the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition (562) 204-6333
to be referred to legal services.
This number will only assist Long Beach community members.
City leaders and a nonprofit made $350,000 available for poor Long Beach immigrants facing deportation proceedings who are without a lawyer. This number will direct you to legal organizations.
Pushed forward by local rights groups, the Long Beach Justice Fund was created this year to provide legal representation to immigrants who live or work in Long Beach that are facing deportation orders.
Advocates say the legal counsel will make clients five times more likely to be released from detention and rejoin their families in Long Beach.
To be clear, the resource is not for legal advice on matters relating to DACA or marriage, for example. To benefit, you must be in removal proceedings (facing deportation orders) or be facing detention for that reason.
The city chose the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) — one of the largest deportation defense providers in Southern California — to implement the service, meaning their attorneys and staff will be assigned to represent Long Beach clients.
The justice fund was long sought after by local rights groups and saw a one-time $250,000 allocation by the city and $100,000 from a nonprofit named the Vera Institute of Justice.
“With the support of the Long Beach Justice Fund, we will be giving back, and we will be returning community members where they belong, right here in Long Beach,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, the executive director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, at an April press conference.
As of August 1, the closest immigrant detention center is now in Adelanto – more than 90 miles away from Long Beach, separating the detained farther from their community.
The closest detention center was before found in Orange County, but that facility ended its contract with ICE and had been transferring ICE detainees to Adelanto in recent weeks. This shift could send Long Beach residents to even out of state to visit detained relatives.
Justice Fund advocates say their budget will represent immigrants from Long Beach so that they can avoid being displaced so many miles away from their families.
“We know that people that don’t have access to legal representation are more likely to be deported,” said Gaby Hernandez, Associate Director of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition (LBIRC). Many immigrants pay up, she says on average $5,000 or $10,000 for legal representation. Some, go without aid all together.
“Families don’t have that safety net. This representation is vital for keeping families together in Long Beach,” said Hernandez.
If you are unsure how applying for public benefits
— such as medical care, food stamps, housing vouchers or more —
might affect you or your ability to obtain a green card,
call the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance at (213) 738-9050.
They are helping answer questions about these matters.
Recently, the Department of Homeland Security announced hardened criteria on those applying for green cards if they are deemed likely to also use public assistance. Once in effect, the rule would deny green cards to migrants who might use, for example, food stamps, most forms of Medicaid, some Section 8 housing, with some ease for military families and children in some cases.
The rule would be especially aggressive on green card applicants who are deemed to likely receive “one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.” In other words, receiving two public benefits in one month will count as two months’ worth of assistance.
In the new rule, the meaning of “public benefit” was expanded to include more government programs. If you want to learn more details about the new “public charge” rule go here.
When applying for legal status, courts have historically relied on determining “public charge” – government speak for applicants it considers likely to be burdensome or overly dependent on public assistance.
The term originates from The Immigration Act of 1891, one of the country’s first to regulate immigration, referring to “idiots, insane persons, paupers, or persons likely to become a public charge” after entry.
The new Homeland Security ruling is slated to take effect on October 15, but has already faced various lawsuits in its wake.
A day of free health examinations for immigrants is coming to North Long Beach on August 24.
On August 24, LBIRC will host a Health Fair at Ramona Park from 10AM to 3PM with free health screenings for all, including:
- Blood pressure
- Sexual health and family planning and more
Affordable and quality health care is something that is often difficult or nearly impossible for undocumented Californian adults to attain currently. The health fair is just another way that local activists express their advocacy for the #Health4All campaign, which promotes healthcare access to all Californians regardless of background.
California will expand healthcare access for low-income,
undocumented immigrants 25 years old and younger starting in 2020.
Visit any Medi-Cal clinic at that time to enroll but also
make sure to ask legal experts if applying can affect your chances of getting a green card.
California had allowed children of any immigration status to receive Medi-Cal, the state’s healthcare plan, as long as they were low-income. The Governor’s budget extends those benefits to poor, undocumented adults until they age out at 26. It’s slated to kick in 2020.
California is the first state to provide such adult coverage. The expansion is slated to benefit around 90,000 people at the cost of roughly $98 million, though advocates argue that more adults can be covered with the budget.
According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants living in California pay $3 billion annually in combined state and local taxes— a figure dwarfing Gov. Newsom’s latest expansion cost, said VoiceWaves writer, Benyamin Chao.
“We can praise Gov. Newsom for diagnosing and treating the problem, but the size of the band-aid just doesn’t fit the size of the wound,” Chao said.
Additionally, since the new “public charge” rules mentioned above target certain public health services like Medi-Cal, you may want to check in with the organizations mentioned above for any legal questions you may have or if you are applying for a green card.
There are free neighborhood classes to learn English
For free ESL Classes for Spanish Speakers with the Long Beach Immigrants Coalition, call 562-204-6333 or go here for a list of other free ESL classes for Spanish speakers.
For free ESL Classes for Khmer Speakers, go here for a list of citywide programs.
Did we miss any key resources for immigrants in Long Beach? Let us know by emailing the VoiceWaves editor: [email protected]