- Matthew Godinez
SACRAMENTO – On Thursday, March 2, 2023, Assemblymember Juan Carrillo (D-Palmdale), Angelica Salas, Executive Director for Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights (CHIRLA), senior-aged immigrants, and other legislators held a press conference announcing AB 1536, a bill that would expand access to the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) to the state’s most vulnerable seniors and disabled undocumented population. AB 1536 is sponsored by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).
“Across our state, the aging, undocumented population is increasing, especially our immigrant seniors, many of whom have no retirement despite years of working in this country,” said Assemblymember Juan Carrillo. “AB 1536 will serve as a building block on the work we have accomplished to ensure our undocumented senior population can age with dignity. Although California has made historic investments in expanding food assistance benefits and unlocking Medi-Cal for undocumented seniors, it has fallen short in doing the same for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). This program leaves behind thousands of our undocumented seniors and disabled individuals struggling to afford their housing, prescription medicine, and necessities amid skyrocketing costs due to inflation rates, and much more.”
CAPI is a state-funded program that is designed to provide a monthly cash benefit to qualified aged (65+), blind, and disabled immigrants – which can include legal permanent residents, refugees, asylum seekers, and individuals permanently residing in the U.S. under color of law – who are ineligible for federal Supplemental Security Income/State Supplemental Programs (SSI/SSP) solely due to their immigrant status. This exclusion leaves some of California’s most vulnerable without access to a significant benefit.
“These undocumented seniors 65 and older are the same seniors who have contributed significant money to our economy through taxes, household expenses and much more. It is a benefit they deserve,” highlighted Assemblymember Juan Carrillo. “As a proud Mexican immigrant, I am committed to fighting for what I believe is right, which means ALL immigrants’ rights. ¡Si Se Puede!”
According to the 2019 American Community Survey, data shows that California is home to an estimated 17,000 undocumented seniors 65 and older, many of whom would benefit from this proposed expansion. This number will continue to rise in the coming years, considering those who will age into qualifying for the program –furthering the dire need to address this inequity.
"This proposal seeks to recognize thousands of aged, blind and disabled immigrants in this state,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA. “Many of them undocumented workers who have for decades labored and contributed to state benefit programs but do not qualify for retirement benefits and are aging into poverty. This economic aid will help support the needs of these 60, 70, 80 year olds who need our support at the most critical and vulnerable times of their lives. CAPI's expansion offers the opportunity for these individuals to receive monthly cash assistance to help them age with dignity.”
To support California’s most vulnerable undocumented seniors and disabled individuals, AB 1536 will expand the current CAPI to allow access to the program regardless of immigration status. The bill would also remove the requirement for an undocumented applicant to first apply for federal SSI/SSP and receive a rejection notice before being able to continue with the application process.
“AB 1536 comes at a time when attempts at federal immigration reform have stagnated and while other states have demonized undocumented immigrants simply for wanting a better life,” said Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas). “Undocumented immigrants are our neighbors, our fellow community members, and our friends. I am grateful to my great friend and colleague Assemblymember Juan Carrillo and to CHIRLA for advocating on this critical issue.”
“The pandemic has hurt so many Californians and community members should not be prevented from accessing CAPI because of immigration status,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). “CAPI provides essential relief for elderly and disabled Californians and it is imperative that undocumented people who are seniors and/or disabled are able to access it.”
“The Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) has uplifted some of the most vulnerable residents throughout our communities so that they can live with more meaning and intent every day,” said Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton). “While we have made great strides in making these benefits available, it’s important that we also make them accessible, such as through relief provided in AB 1536, so that deserving individuals can receive the assistance they need.”
“Our immigrant community faces inequalities and injustices daily due to their status,” said Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland). “They work in the shadows providing vital and necessary services that help keep our economy running. Yet, they struggle. It’s about time that we expand access to the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants because we all deserve an opportunity to thrive. It’s the right thing to do.”
Co-authors include Asm. Robert Rivas, Asm. Santiago, Asm. Bonta, Asm. Villapudua, Asm. Gipson, and Asm. Blanca Rubio.
Assemblymember Juan Carrillo proudly represents the 39th Assembly District which includes the cities and communities of Palmdale, Lancaster, Lake Los Angeles, Sun Village,
Victorville, Hesperia, and Adelanto.