California is home to millions of immigrants looking to find a better life in America. However, not all are legal residents as more than a million are considered undocumented or illegal aliens. Many have been overstaying in the country after their visas expired.
Data from Pew Research Center showed that as of 2014, there were 11.3 million unauthorized illegal immigrants in the U.S. comprising 3.5 percent of the entire U.S. population. Of this figure, Mexicans make up half of unauthorized immigrants at 5.6 million. Additionally, six states account for 60 percent of illegal aliens with California, Texas, Florida and New York in the lead.
Thanks to the Obama government, unauthorized immigrants in California started enjoying some of their legal rights and protection this year. This was after the passage of new laws that benefit them and their immediate families. Obama’s recent action to protect unauthorized immigrants from deportation was considered the most significant since 1986 when Congress passed a law that allowed some 2.7 million illegal aliens to get a green card.
One of the most important laws pertain to financial assistance particularly to college students. “Under the California DREAM loan program, for instance, some 2,500 college students with illegal status can now avail of loan assistance similar to the regular students,” said attorney Kerry Yianilos, a San Diego citizenship lawyer. “The loans also cover undocumented AB 540 students who must submit an application each year to be eligible for certain types of financial aid,” she added.
In 2013, some 20,000 college-bound students sought financial assistance for the first time under the new Dream Act laws of California. Most of the students were brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents making them illegal immigrants.
Reports say that an estimated 65,000 immigrant children with no legal status graduate from high school each year. However, less than 6,500 are able to go to college. Also, an estimated seven percent of K-12 students had at least one unauthorized immigrant parent in 2012.
On the other hand, minors who came to the U.S. without their parents and are at risk of being deported can now avail of legal representation. A budget of $3 million has been allotted to them for this purpose and under the new law, undocumented children are allowed to sure for legal representation. Legal experts advise that illegal immigrants consult with an attorney so they can be enlightened on the new laws and how they can benefit from them.
Currently, there are a few options available for undocumented immigrants to become a permanent resident in the U.S. These include marrying a U.S. citizen, serving in the U.S. military, cancellation of removal and asylum. Many have opted for the first option which is entering into marriage with a bona fide U.S. citizen after the expiration of their visas.