Immigrants in Sacramento, California, face challenges finding housing, employment, and necessities dependent on their immigration status. Whether legal or illegal, the quality of life experienced by immigrants is lower than their US born counterparts. Post secondary education and work authorization become a challenge after high school for those who spent K-12 in the US school system but do not have citizenship. Immigration laws are a point of contention between two heavily polarized groups and the economic and political arena is in constant turmoil as a result. Organizations like Immigration Voice and legislation like the Dream Act have provided opportunity where none existed. Advocates of harsher immigration laws advocate intolerance, via deportation, and claim the drain on the state and local economies cannot be sustained.
Immigration is a hot topic in California, especially southern California, but also further north in Sacramento. No state has as many immigrants, most from South and Central America, and their quality of life is an important issue that enjoys a great deal of attention in both the media and legislative bodies. Sacremento's large population of immigrants consists of those with both legal and illegal status and the California immigration laws that cover them are nearly as vast as their numbers.
The last reliable estimate, in 2006, states that there are roughly 2.8 million illegal immigrants in California, with as many as 80% of those living in the Los Angelas area, so the number of illegal immigrants in Sacramento is reasonably thought to be in proportion to its percentage of the remainder for large population centers. It is very hard to determine the accuracy of estimates because adults are hard to estimate, teachers do not generally ask about citizenship, and children born in the USA to illegals are citizens by birth.
The immigration laws can be broken down into two basic categories: laws that are in place to prevent illegal aliens from coming into, or living in, the USA and California, and laws that are designed to protect the quality of life of immigrants, both legal and illegal once they are here. Quality of life issues revolving around this large population of people have stirred emotions on both sides of the fence.
There are those who aren't very sympathetic to their needs because they think the issue is one of prevention; if they weren't here then their problems wouldn't be our problems. Then there are those who would like to see policies in place to help them for humanitarian reasons because they feel that regardless of origin all people are entitled to access freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Immigration laws and sentiment in Sacramento, California, at this time mirror many other southern states. Sacramento is not a "sanctuary" city per se and immigrants receive no special treatment compared with anywhere else. The application process for US citizenship takes between 6-12 years and the 7% "per-country" limitation currently in place has created a backlog of applicants from high demand nations that shrinks at an alarmingly slow rate.
Countries like Mexico, India, and China produce applicants in excess of 7% while many others don't have nearly enough each year to use their 7%. California has passed an adaptation of the Dream Act which provides criteria under which an illegal youth who qualifies may be elligible for private scholarships in the USA. Other than that even attaining a visa is dependent mostly on occupational or familial ties, aside from those seeking asylum.
The quality of life for legal immigrants is improving. Many who have attained a green card have found decent jobs and lead a normal life. As a whole, however, they still face challenges finding high paying employment and many find themselves stuck in industries that are low paying and in undesirable positions. Organizations like Immigration Voice, a non-profit, help skilled legal workers find better jobs in order to help them integrate into society on a more level field.
Quality of life issues facing illegal immigrants in Sacramento, California, right now are worse than their legal counterparts. Where can I stay when I get here? What will I do for employment? How long can I remain hidden? What will I do if I'm discovered? How will my family get by if I'm sent back? These are dilemmas they face on a daily basis.
Many of them end up in substandard housing with occupancy exceeding the numbers the accomodations were designed to house. They face hardships getting food and supplies and often end up doing difficult or dirty work nobody else wants to do for extremely low wages. When discovered their families are separated and might lose the small income they did have.
Living conditions can be nominal and unsanitary depending on the community and support network they arrived into once here and getting out of that situation can prove very difficult. This difficulty is demonstrated by the 11% of prisoners who are illegal immigrants, a disproportionately large number compared to their percentage of the population at large. We may see a social or polical shift in the future that will change this picture but for now immigration laws in Sacramento, California, and the rest of the nation remain a heatedly debated issue and the quality of life for immigrants is slow to improve.