SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Margot Valverde is very similar to other seniors in California: She wants to live a dignified life without having to be a burden on her children.

However, because of her immigration status, Valverde cannot access state funds, even though she’s paid taxes every year since being in the U.S.

What You Need To Know

  • AB 1536 expands the cash assistance program CAPI to undocumented immigrants

  • Undocumented immigrants contribute around $2 billion in taxes every year to California, despite not being eligible for many state programs

  • The expansion of CAPI is estimated to cost around $35 million

  • The standard CAPI payment per month is $1,133.73 and goes up depending on if an individual is blind or has another disability

Valverde, 66, is an undocumented immigrant and mother of four. The Peruvian native moved to the Golden State 15 years ago and has spent most of her time making a living as a housekeeper. However, a few years ago, she had to undergo hip surgery and was unable to go back to work.

During that time, she applied to California’s Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants. CAPI is a state-funded program for immigrants who are 65 or over, blind or disabled. Valverde’s application was denied due to her being an undocumented immigrant.

California is home to about 17,000 undocumented seniors, many who find themselves in the same position as Valverde. Assembly member Juan Carrillo, D-Palmdale, introduced AB 1536 to help this vulnerable population by expanding access to CAPI.

“I am proud to be able to say that I was able to attain the American dream being an immigrant at 15 years old,” said Carrillo. “And I just want to be able to make sure that we recognize the elders — the ones that risked their lives, the ones that left their families behind and those that are suffering injuries because of work — now at their age, 65+, they’re not able to continue the hard-working work that they did.”

Assembly Speaker-designee Robert Rivas, son of immigrant farmworkers, notes how this legislation sets California apart from the rest of the country.

“[AB 1536] comes at a time where federal immigration reform has stagnated, and at the same time, you have other states across our country who have demonized our undocumented immigrants,” Rivas said.

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles co-sponsored AB 1536. There are about 2.5 million undocumented immigrants in California. Collectively, they contribute around $2 billion in taxes every year to the state.

“Immigrants and undocumented individuals help fund some of the very benefits and retirement program that they are shut out from accessing when they’re no longer able to work,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of CHIRLA.

It is estimated to cost around $35 million to expand CAPI to qualified undocumented immigrants.

“It’s an insignificant amount compared to the billions of dollars that they contribute to the state’s economy,” Carrillo said.

The standard CAPI payment per month is $1,133.73 and goes up depending on if an individual is blind or has another disability.

Valverde says she doesn’t plan to stop working if the legislation is enacted. It would just allow her to age with dignity, without having to feel like a burden on her children.

AB 1536 has not received any formal opposition yet. The bill is scheduled to have its first committee hearing as early as March 20.

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