California Has New Benefits For Undocumented Immigrants. They’re Not enough, Workers Say

Paula Cortez Medrano has worked in the agriculture industry since she arrived in the U.S. over 25 years ago.

She’s labored in the heat of Fresno summers, picking onions, tomatoes, grapes, and garlic, as well as in the freezing temperatures of local produce packing houses, where she’d wear two layers of pants to stay warm while assembling frozen fruits and vegetables to be sold in grocery stores across the country.

She contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic and was sent home from work with only two weeks of paid sick leave. It took her 40 days to recover, but when she returned to her packing house job, she was turned away.

“They told me that they had no more work for me, that it was really slow,” she said in Spanish in an interview with The Bee.

The 66-year-old said she thinks she was turned away because of her age; they never called her back to work. Today, she sells tamales as a street vendor in central Fresno, earning an average of $80 a day, much less than the $15 per hour she earned in the packing house.

Because of workers like Cortez Medrano, California Democratic lawmakers want to extend unemployment benefits to undocumented workers, a proposal backed by a new report by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center which makes the case for why the California economy, workforce, and families would benefit.

Introduced last month by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella, and currently under review in the legislature, AB 2847 would create the Excluded Workers Pilot Program, a two-year program that would provide funds to undocumented workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced during the calendar year 2023. The proposal, estimated at $597 million, plus administrative costs, would allow qualifying, unemployed individuals to receive up to $300 a week for 20 weeks.

The report, released Thursday, argues that undocumented workers play a key role in California’s economy, contributing an estimated $3.7 billion in annual state and local tax revenues. Additionally, these workers hold one in 16 jobs in the state, many of whom were deemed “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the risks they took working in the agriculture fields, meatpacking houses, and other key industries.

An estimated 2 million undocumented individuals live in California with about 1.1 million of that population participating in the workforce.

Of the 1.6 million workers in the central San Joaquin Valley, an estimated 7% are undocumented, the report states.

Nearly 38% of noncitizen workers, and more than 61% of children living with noncitizen workers, live in households earning less than a living wage and face chronic and severe housing and food insecurity, the report states. “Unfortunately, such workers face high rates of extreme hardship and do not have access to unemployment benefits.”

The report concludes that the challenges facing undocumented workers are only likely to increase as a result of a number of environmental challenges like wildfires, earthquakes, extreme heat, and drought, piled on top of the ongoing public health crisis the state is already grappling with.

Cortez Medrano said access to unemployment benefits from a pilot program would be “la gloria,” or glory, and that she would use such funds to pay rent, bills, and buy food during her time without stable work.

“I need the help – urgently,” she said in Spanish. “It’s high time.”

Beyond access to unemployment Cortez, Medrano said what she really wants is a work permit to make her job search easier. “I can still work,” she said.

HIGH RISK, FEW SAFEGUARDS FOR UNDOCUMENTED WORKFORCE

UC Merced researchers found a relationship between in-person work, unemployment benefits usage, and the undocumented workforce.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

Comments

  1. Tracker1 says

    History shows that America welcomed people from other countries to come and make THEIR way. Today we are providing massive amounts of money to people who did not come as welcomed new comers, they snuck or walked across the border with the blessings of the Biden administration. Now they are, and have been, demanding all kinds of benefits to the point that we are entering a rapidly expanding inflation. At some point that has to be controlled. If not, the woke people will pay the same price which includes every aspect of our lives. The era of welcoming the tired, the poor, the humble masses yearning to be free cannot exist without controls. If not we will soon become a CONTROLLED third world country. Good luck with that!

  2. This could be the last straw for the big factory farms – they will just employ automation for picking and harvesting, always cheaper than human labor.

  3. Concerned says

    Get back to being “legal.” Make all people be documented or send them back. Simple. No benefits for the undocumented. Disobeying the law is a horrible way to start life in America.

    With the food shortage coming, and farmers being made to destroy their crops, this will only get worse.

    . Note the Ukrainians are all going through the legal process of “humanitarian parole” at the borders. .

  4. Me work???? Was a time that migrant workers came to make monies and RETURN to their country until the next season. Now WE (keep on electing the socialist) allowed the government to hand FREE money to anyone that doesn’t want to work and live a good life at the expense of WE the People. WEhave allowed this to mature over the last 5-decades. The WE and the freebies have created the newest 3rd World!!! Watch out for who you continue to vote for!!!!

  5. Concerned says

    Yes, watch who we vote for…..but, where are the good candidates to vote for? Are any stepping up to the plate?

    HELP!!

    • John Galt says

      Far too many are throwing their hats into the ring. It’s not going to work well with the jungle primary we have in this rat hole. Of course that is the idea.

      Wait until the 500,000 come pouring over and Brandon starts flying them to CA where Gavin will welcome them with OUR tax money.

  6. Can’t remember in what state, but out of three candidates, 2-politicians, 1-welder, I’d vote for the welder! VOTE these seasoned politicians out! AND continue to plead for TERM LIMITS at all levels of government; local, state, and federal! Has to start at the local levels and that means being involved and educated about the candidates!! Bless our country – I still have hope!!!

  7. John Galt says

    Thankfully Gov. HairGel is reducing the water to the farmers even further, have to more of the illegals on the tax payers dollar and kill the economy further. Oh btw do the illegals buy Teslas to save the planet from global WTH?

  8. It’s the democrat way. Expound victimhood and emotion to grow dependent layers of society. Their legal residence status is of little matter. After all, since when did democrats abide to laws or, the Constitution for that matter?

  9. There are too many Republican candidates in the primaries, which splits the votes and we end up with two democrats at the “top tier” (worst decision ever). CAGOP needs to find a way to limit the number of candidates somehow, maybe a pre-primary or poll that convinces many of these people that they don’t stand a chance and will only dilute the vote.

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