Welcome

By Bill Lann Lee and Timothy P. Silard

In the fall of 1984, Rosenberg Foundation’s Board of Directors traveled to the U.S. -Mexico border to meet with scholars, foundation grantees and government officials. They observed activity along the border at night, visited detention facilities and met with agencies serving immigrants.

Reflecting on that journey in the foundation’s 1984-1989 report, Hon. Cruz Reynoso, Herma Hill Kay, Peter F. Sloss and Norvel Smith wrote: “Those of us who made the journey to the border were reminded again of the fragile human element that surrounds every aspect of the immigration cycle and of the urgent need for an immigration policy that is sensitive to the needs of current residents and restores dignity and ensures fair treatment to those who come seeking a ‘better life’ for themselves and their families.”

A year later, the foundation revised its program priorities to respond to the need for widespread immigration reform, focusing on “the changing population of California.” In 1986, following the historic passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the foundation allocated a large part of its grantmaking to projects that supported legalization, successful immigrant integration and full implementation of the new law.

Nearly 30 years later, the country once again is at a crossroads when it comes to immigration, with our national leaders still debating how and when to reform our deeply broken, costly and inhumane immigration system. While Congress appears paralyzed on this issue, more than 11 million immigrants—our friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members—continue to live in the shadows, at the mercy of our nation’s flawed and often cruel immigration laws and policies.  Meanwhile, we all pay the price for federal inaction that consigns millions to live on the margins of our economic and civic life.

Here in California, thanks to the tireless work of advocacy organizations and community leaders, the state is paving the way and providing a roadmap for immigrant rights and integration for the rest of the country.  As California’s Governor Jerry Brown has said: “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead.”

Given the historical context as well as the current national debate, we thought it fitting to dedicate our third edition of Justice in California to the issue of immigrant rights and integration. In this edition, leading immigrant rights advocates and champions write about what’s been achieved thus far and what more remains to be done. Reshma Shamasunder and Angelica Salas discuss how California became a leader in immigrant rights. Pablo Alvarado celebrates the shift away from the criminalization of immigrants. DREAMer Ju Hong shares with us what prompted him to speak up for immigrant rights and land in the national spotlight. Janet Murguía urges us to put immigrant integration front and center.

Nearly 80 years after Rosenberg became one of the first foundations to provide funds for programs serving migrant workers in the San Joaquin Valley, immigrant workers’ rights remains a core part of the foundation’s grantmaking. So, we asked Richard Trumka to share how immigration reform can benefit workers.  Saru Jayaraman tells us why California must stand up for restaurant workers. Katie Joaquin and Maria Distancia focus on what’s next for domestic workers. Veronica Alvarado and Santos Castaneda write about the struggle for warehouse workers’ rights in the Inland Empire. And Hon. Cruz Reynoso and Arturo Rodriguez highlight the continuing battle for justice for California’s farmworkers.

As always, our hope for Justice in California is that it will inform our public conversation on how best to realize our common dreams for justice and equality in California. We look forward to continuing to work with all of you to support the leaders and organizations fighting for fair immigration policies that uphold our basic values, protect the rights we hold dear, strengthen our economy and communities, and improve the lives of immigrant youth and families across the state and country.