SB 174: Affirmative – 2018 Yucai Cup Essay

SB 174: Affirmative

by Andrew Gao, Canyon Crest Academy

California has long been regarded as one of the most diverse and multicultural states in the United States, and even in the entire world. People from all walks of life live, work, play, and learn here in the Golden state, which is truly a “golden” example of the American dream. However, despite the advances the state has made in equality and freedom, one thing still stands in the way of total inclusion: the fact that only U.S. citizens who are residents of California may serve on civil boards and commissions. A new bill, SB 174, dubbed the California Inclusion Act, would remove that barrier, and allow all of California’s unique and different voices to be heard and acted upon, help California take advantage of the wide range of talents and skills possessed by non-citizens, and eradicate a centuries-old law that was intended to oppress Chinese immigrants, and foreigners in general.

Firstly, as the most populated state in America, and arguably the most diverse, California is home to scores of distinct beliefs, opinions, and situations. For example, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, there are more than 10 million immigrants residing in the state and half of children in California have at least one immigrant parent. As such, in order for California to effectively serve its people, it needs to lift the strict restrictions currently in place, so non-citizens can be more represented and supported in California’s civil offices. They need to have their opinions heard on issues pertaining to them, like safety and healthcare. California already has a vast system in place to support the rights and lives of immigrants, such as healthcare for children, college grants, driver’s licenses, and more. Allowing immigrants to serve on boards and commissions is simply a natural next step.

Likewise, SB 174 will provide many benefits to the state since there are many qualified men and women who could make a tremendous impact on their communities, but cannot due to lack of citizenship. Currently, to serve on the Board of Directors of a District Agricultural Association, the Contractors State License Board, the State Board of Food and Agriculture, and many other boards and commissions, one must be a U.S. citizen. However, limiting the positions soly to citizens results in the loss of many important perspectives and experiences. For example, according to Pew Research Center, although unauthorized immigrant workers only comprise 5% of the American civilian labor force, they represent 15% of construction workers. Additionally, an analysis of the United States Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey reveals that in the last 15 years, illegal immigrants accounted for about half of workers in crop agriculture.  The boards listed above could greatly benefit from the knowledge and viewpoints of these workers and their families.

Finally, implementing SB 174 would end a law from 1872 that was created due to anti-Chinese sentiment at the time. Effectively, the law denied them a voice in government and society, completely ignoring the huge contributions they had made, for instance the building of the transcontinental railroads. Sadly, nearly 150 years later, non-citizens are still excluded from California’s boards, commissions and other agencies, even though immigrants, legal and illegal, have always had large impacts on California’s culture, society, and economy. From Chinese miners in the 19th century, to Mexican migrant workers in the 20th, to today’s immigrants who are the backbone of many of California’s key industries, the truth is that California would not be where it is today, as the world’s 5th largest economy (United States Department of Commerce 2018), without the hard work of non-citizens throughout California’s history. SB 174 will change this ancient and outdated law, and give everyone an opportunity to serve in Californian agencies. While some argue that immigrants who are not citizens cannot be trusted to act in California’s interests, this point of contention is invalid since the person would still have to be a resident of California and be appointed, which is significant because whatever decision the person makes will affect them too and they will also have been carefully selected for the position. Moreover, immigrants make up around one fourth of the total population of California, which means that millions of Californians don’t have the right to work in state agencies. Does this seem inclusive and representative of California’s diverse populace?

To sum it up, SB 174 is another momentous step towards equality in California. It will grant everyone, no matter their immigration status, the ability to serve on state boards and commissions, unlock a wealth of expertise in multiple areas that was previously inaccessible, and lift a longstanding regulation formed out of resentment and prejudice. Contact your local congressperson and senator now and ask them to support SB 174!



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