COMMENTARY | With the current push by Washington for national immigration reform, could 2013 not be California's chance for Sacramento to take an important stance on this divisive issue? Although the matter of illegal immigration is being addressed (for the moment) on a national level, housing one-fourth of the U.S. illegal immigrant population also makes this a very important concern at the state level.
The Pew Research Hispanic Center estimates there were 2,600,000 illegal immigrants residing in California in 2010, about 6.8 percent of the state's population.
Recently, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill allowing illegal immigrants a special driving license, making Illinois the largest state to allow the driving privilege. States hundreds of miles from the U.S.-Mexican border are taking on the issues involving immigration, so should not a state that sits atop a good portion of the nearly-2,000-mile border be doing the same?
President Obama, at an address in Las Vegas said immigration reform is in our grasp, but it remains to be seen whether we'll truly have a stronger U.S. border before legalizing up to 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.
In the president's speech, he specified "three pillars" of immigration reform: better enforcement of immigration laws, providing a path to legal citizenship and reforming the legal immigration system. To earn the opportunity for citizenship, Obama said, "We've got to -- we've got to lay out a path, a process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line behind all the folks who are trying to come here legally."
With both sides of Washington currently willing to discuss the matter of illegal immigration, 2013 provides great opportunity for the elected officials in Sacramento to take the lead.