Immigration Reform

by Carla Hansen

Immigration reform is slowly stumbling its way through two bipartisan groups in the House and Senate. President Obama expects actual legislation sometime in April. This progress and aggressive time line creates hope for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States, as well as a huge line of persons waiting to get visas or full citizenship.

President Obama and a bipartisan group of Senators known as “the Gang of Eight” have offered “pillars” of immigration reform or an over arching policyframework that a future bill will include. The House of Representatives bipartisan group is also working on legislation, but it hasn’t released anything specific yet.

The Gang of Eight, which includes Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York, John McCain of Arizona, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Marco Rubio of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, provided a fairly detailed framework for what a Senate immigration reform bill might look like. In preparation for the April 23rd Club meeting here’s an overview of that framework:

The four basic pillars include:
I. Creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here that is contingent upon securing the border and combating visa overstays

  • Increasing Border Patrol’s personnel, improving surveillance equipment, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and other infrastructure
  • Strengthening prohibitions against racial profiling and other inappropriate uses of force
  • Creating an entry-exit system that tracks all persons entering the US on temporary visas through sea and airports.
  • Developing a committee of southwest border state representatives to ensure security measures are implemented
  • Requiring all persons who came or remain in the US to register with the government, pass background checks, and settle any debts to society in order to earn probationary legal status
  • Requiring individuals who have earned a probationary legal to go to the “back of the line” of prospective immigrants, pass additional background checks, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate history of work in US in order to apply for a lawful permanent residency. Then, the individual will “eventually” get a green card
  •  Ensuring those who are present without lawful status will only receive a green card after all those in line have received one—This does not apply to immigrants who entered the US as minors or those who have been working for the agricultural industry.

II. Improving our legal Immigration System and attracting the world’s best and brightest

  • The broken immigration system discourages the “best and brightest” and “well-meaning” immigrants from coming to the US and created a backlog of visas thus incentivizing illegal immigration
  • Any reform must reduce backlogs, and provide family and employment visas
  • Any reform must reward immigrants who have earned PhD’s or Master’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math from an American University.

III. Strong employment verification

  • Because immigrants almost always come to the US for jobs, an employment verification system must hold employers accountable for knowingly hiring undocumented workers and make it harder for unauthorized immigrants to falsify documents to obtain employment
  • Provide a fast and reliable method for US employers to verify applicant’s status and prevent identity theft through non forgeable electronic means prior to offering employment

IV. Admitting new workers and protecting workers rights

  • Provide business the ability to hire lower-skilled workers in a timely manner when Americans are unavailable or unwilling to fill those jobs
  • Employers must demonstrate that they were unsuccessful in recruiting Americans to fill an open position and that an immigrant will not displace an American worker
  • Create a workable program to meet the needs of America’s agricultural industry when American’s are not available to fill open positions
  • Allow more immigrants to come to the US when the economy is creating jobs and less when it is not creating jobs
  • Ensure labor protection for workers
  • Permit workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years to earn green cards

In contrast, the House of Representatives offer three distinct paths to citizenship. According to a recent New York Times article published April 2nd, a House bill will “most likely” feature the following:

  • Young immigrants or “dreamers” and low-skilled agricultural workers would qualify to be expedited through the process of becoming “legal”
  • Immigrants who have a family or an employment relationship here in the US would be allowed to apply for a legal permanent residency instead of being forced
    to return home for three to 10 years before being eligible to apply. The House bill would “relax or waive” the current process if immigrants pay back taxes or learn
  • Other immigrants must pay fines and back taxes, learn English and apply for a “provisional legal status.” Then after 10 years, they will be eligible to apply for a
    green card. After having a green card for five years, they can apply for citizenship

The two potential bills have many similarities that will hopefully create a less volatile bill blending process.

According to the article, the sticking point could be whether or not immigrants can receive State or Federal benefits during their “provisional status.”

On the employment side, an agreement was just reached by labor union representatives and business owners on how much a business should pay a “guest workers” or low-skilled undocumented immigrants (mostly working in the hotel, restaurant and construction industries) brought in during labor shortages. Guest workers will be paid the higher of the prevailing industry wage determined by the Labor Department or actual employer wage. Crane operator and electrician positions
were excluded from the guest worker visa program.

At this point, keeping track of all the current happenings around this topic may be more difficult that actually coming to a consensus on a new policy. Stay tuned. There’s never a dull moment in immigration reform.

California Needs a New Health Care System

by Al Miller

A report of the Health Care Committee, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club ( provided information for this two part series of articles. Part two will appear in a future issue.

California legislators decided not to re-introduce a follow on bill to SB 810 this year while they focus on introducing the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the reforms in the ACA are improvements to the pre-ACA system, they do not result in a sustainable health care system for all Americans.

The 2010 federal health care reform will help many people pay for health insurance and rein in some of the worse abuses of health insurance companies. But it leaves wasteful, profit-driven insurance corporations in charge of our health care. California needs a universal, single-payer health care system like the California Universal Health Care Act (SB 810)!

Here are some reasons why:
We need a health care system that includes everybody.
SB 810 includes everyone in the state, regardless of age, health, employment, economic, or immigration status.

The ACA requires everyone to buy health insurance starting in 2014. But it excludes undocumented immigrants and exempts people who can’t afford insurance or who pay a fine. An estimated 8% of the population still won’t have insurance—going without needed care, and relying on expensive emergency rooms.

We need a plan that covers all of our medically necessary care.
SB 810 provides the same comprehensive coverage to everyone, rich or poor, old or young—all medically necessary care including doctor and hospital costs, prescription drugs, dental, vision, and mental health care, medical equipment, physical therapy, acupuncture, and more.

The ACA lists benefits that insurance companies have to cover. But it doesn’t include adult dental and vision care or―alternative treatments like acupuncture. And insurance companies’ priority is profits, so they have a stake in denying claims. You will still have to fight with them over claims they deny.

We need a system that controls costs for individuals and families.
SB 810 charges an affordable premium to employees and employers, on a sliding scale based on earnings. It eliminates co-pays and deductibles, as well as the insurance companies’ wasteful bureaucracy, staff to deny your claims, sky-high CEO salaries, and profits.

The ACA does not control increases in insurance premiums (which doubled in the last 10 years). Your out-of-pocket costs (deductibles and co-pays) will go up as health care costs go up, despite some controls. As premiums rise, many employers will charge employees more for insurance.

We need a system that lets us choose our doctors.
SB 810 creates one fund for the whole state, so the fund will pay the fee of any doctor or licensed health care provider in the state. That means you can choose any doctor who’s available.

Under the ACA, you have to buy insurance from a private company, so you can only go to the doctors it covers. If you change jobs or lose your job, you may end up with different insurance and have to change doctors.

Go to these sites for information about how you can help bring comprehensive, affordable health care to all Californians:


Jewel of Kensington Park – The Community Center “Youth Hut”

by Bruce V. Marrow

Set on the hillside overlooking the SF Bay, Kensington Park is the major physical asset owned and operated by the Kensington Police Protection and Community Services District (KPPCSD). The construction of outdoor park activities is superb with children’s play areas, tennis courts, basketball, pathways, playing fields and most recently the addition of public rest rooms.

The Community Center, aka the Youth Hut, is the building we all share and attend for recreation programs and community sponsored activities and events. The Center should be the “jewel” and focus of the park. However, it is sadly in need of repair and does not ive up to the basic safety standards and civic expectations of most Kensington residents.

A Master Plan for Park Buildings was completed in March 2012. Based on community input from two workshops and an on-line survey, the architects recommended both repairing the basic health and safety problems, as well as making improvements that would better serve the entire community.

The focus of the design is to first provide a building that would be seismically and physically safer for our children who are the biggest users of the facility. Additionally, the design provides greater separation and flexibility in how the rooms are used, so that multiple programs or meetings could take place at the same time. The design includes human comfort improvements, such as temperature controls and better sound and lighting, while concurrently reducing ongoing costs through energy efficient systems.

The design also encourages more rental opportunities and festive celebrations at times when the facility is not currently being used. Lastly, the new Center would celebrate its beautiful park setting and the indoor/outdoor experience by providing more light along the west wall—a huge opportunity missed in the current

Funding is needed to build the Community Center as recommended in the Master Plan. The cost of renovation is estimated at $1.6 million dollars. Even with existing funding identified for this project (some of which are grants and donations) there is an estimated funding shortfall of $1.1 million dollars. To fund the recommended improvements will require either a voter approved bond or a tax at some point in our future.

The Committee is committed to making our park buildings and our shared civic spaces as safe and enduring as possible and an asset for our enjoyment today and for our families and friends for generations to come.

The Park Buildings Committee is reaching out to “K” groups and other interested neighborhood associations in March so we can educate the community about the Master Plan and the financing options and bring that information back to the KPPCSD Board. Please plan on attending your “K” group meeting or call General Manager Greg Harman at 510-526-4141 to schedule a discussion with your neighborhood group.
To review the full Kensington Park

Buildings Master Plan, please go to and open the tab marked “Parks and Recreation”.