According to U.S. Immigration law, the federal government has sole authority to prescribe rules determining which aliens may enter the country and which may be removed. Federal government agencies such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement are responsible for enforcing civil immigration laws. However, state and local law enforcement in California are authorized to enforce criminal immigration laws, including illegal entry or re-entry, or a failure to depart when there is an order of removal.
The International Business Times reports that permission has been granted to collect signatures for a local measure that would provide residency permits to undocumented immigrants in the state, allowing them to work and attend school without applying for legal status. The initiative will appear on the ballot in 2016 if the group behind the initiative, Sovereign California, Inc., is able to collect enough California voter signatures by Dec. 21.
If voters approve the legislation, undocumented immigrants in California would be able to sidestep federal immigration laws by applying for a permit with the state. This permit would require them to get a tax identification number and pay state income taxes. They would receive an official arrival date that would apply when filing the application to become a legal permanent resident, which is possible after five years of residency.
Although California Gov. Jerry Brown has a reputation for supporting immigration reform legislation, current laws can make it difficult for undocumented immigrants to stay in the country. An immigration attorney may be able to provide advice about laws permitting foreign citizens to remain in the United States and become legal permanent residents.
Source: International Business Times, “Immigration Reform: Signature Collection Underway For California Initiative To Give Undocumented Immigrants Residency,” Philip Ross, June 26, 2015