California Assembly Passes Historic Support Bill for Asylees in the State

Latest news | Sep 01, 2021 08:09 pm

6.24.2021: Governor Newsom must now finalize Enhanced Services Program for Asylees bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Last week, the historic Assembly Bill 1368: Enhanced Services Program for Asylees (ESPA), introduced by California Assembly Member Lisa Calderon, passed the floor vote unanimously, marking the first time a state in the nation has passed a bill that would provide case management services for individuals granted asylum. With this development, California – home to 34 percent of all new asylees in 2019 – sets an example for the rest of the country on immigration leadership and approaches to asylum. The next step is for Governor Gavin Newsom to sign the bill and associated budget when it arrives on his desk in the coming days.

While case management services have historically been provided to refugees, the ESPA would provide those same social services to people granted asylum in California. If passed, the bill would establish the ESPA within the State Department of Social Services, and increase the number of caseworkers specifically assigned to assisting asylees to provide culturally competent and responsive case management for up to 90 days. California’s existing network of 18 refugee resettlement agencies, which already implement the same case management model for resettled refugees, would be responsible for executing the services to get asylees the support they need no matter where they are in the state.

“We Are All America applauds the passage of the AB 1368: ESPA by the California State Legislature, ensuring that critical case management is provided to asylum seekers who have been granted asylum in California. If implemented, this program will give us the opportunity to ensure their equal success in integrating into our economy and society. We now need Governor Newsom to step up and sign ESPA into law so California can lead the rest of the country by example,” said Anahita Panahi, California Refugee Organizer at We Are All America.

“HIAS applauds the passage of the ESPA. Our support for the ESPA emanates from the American Jewish community’s own painful history of fleeing to this country from violent persecution, much like asylum seekers today. HIAS has spent well over a century helping those who sought refuge from persecution and genocide by empowering them to become full-fledged U.S. citizens, including at our three HIAS affiliates right here in California,” said Joe Goldman, Community Engagement Director at HIAS. “Passage of this bill is a manifestation of our values of b’tzelem elohim (“we are all made of the same image”), tzedek, tzedek tirdof (“justice, justice you shall pursue”), and tikkun olam (“to repair the world”) into action.”

“CAIR-CA is incredibly excited to see California allocate funds to the Enhanced Services and Programs for Asylees in our next budget. Ensuring our asylees have culturally competent case management will not only lead to greater self-sufficiency for the asylees themselves, but also put California at the forefront of immigration services policy,” said Hussam Ayloush, CEO of CAIR-CA. “We are undeniably proud to be a part of We Are All America’s efforts, along with more than 75 other organizations from diverse faith and ethnic backgrounds in California, to make California a leader on this issue.”

We Are All America also applauds fellow members of the California Welcomes coalition – including the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), International Rescue Committee, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) CA, HIAS, International Institute of LA, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles – Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service (IRIS), Home for Refugees, and OXFAM America – for their incredible work on this crucial piece of legislation over the past years, as well as the more than 75 California organizations that signed onto the support letter.