Thursday, March 8, 2012

Immigration to Long Beach

Kristin Strange

An estimated 7 to 20 million illegal immigrants are living in the United States. Of those illegal immigrants, at least 56 percent are said to have come from Mexico and 22 percent from Latin American Countries, according to a study from Pew Research Institute.

Organizations like Centro CHA are working to help immigrants become self-sufficient and get their citizenship. Centro CHA, an organization made to help the Latina population living in the Long Beach, offers many resources for both residents and immigrants.

All of the programs offered by Centro CHA are to help the Latino Community. Their many programs offer leadership skills, reproductive health services, paid job training, tutoring, literacy and safety classes and help with the citizenship process.

Jessica Quintana, Executive Director of Centro CHA, says it takes about 6 months to 2 years to become a citizen. “For those who are undocumented they have to live as a Permanent Resident for at least 3 years. During those three years they must have good moral conduct, pay their taxes, support their children if they have a family and have no criminal record. If they live three years under these conditions they almost always get approved for citizenship.”

We now have over 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States and 6,640,000 of those immigrants are from Mexico, according to the US Census.  Each state spends between 11 and 22 billion dollars a year to provide welfare, medical, food stamps and education to immigrants. 

Centro CHA has programs that help immigrants get settled in their new life and not have to rely on government assistance.

The LEAP and LIFT programs help young adults with job training and placement, internships, staying in school and violence prevention.

Quintana has seen what an impact these programs have made. “It completely transforms their lives. It sparks awareness in them and helps build self confidence”

Annette Quintero, with Long Beach Immigrant Rights, is working for a more humane immigration policy.

“The LBIRC works on advocacy, issued-based policies at the local, state, and federal level, provides services to the immigrant community, regardless of immigration status and educates the broad community on the realities and myths of immigration and the need for comprehensive immigration reform”

Long Beach Immigrant Rights coalition offers many services including ESL and citizenship classes, community legal clinics, and knows your rights trainings.  All services provided are free to the community. 

Quintero says that immigrants cannot be put into just legal and illegal categories.

According to, the term “illegal alien” is used to describe someone in our country in violation of our immigration laws.

A newer term, “undocumented immigrant”, doesn’t distinguish between those legally admitted immigrants and those who have sneaked into the country or violated the legal entry terms.

Ana Bonilla, of Building Healthy Communities, recognizes that immigration reform is linked to economic development and the well being of all Long Beach community members. She also knows many community members have advocated for immigration reform.

“In the Community Action Plan, that was written, now over two years ago, the community did want to advocate for the passage of such acts as the California and Federal DREAM Act and also to mobilize on issues locally, statewide and nationally regarding immigration reform”

One major threat to immigration reform is the idea that immigrants will take away US citizen’s jobs.

According to, illegal immigrants are able to use fake employment documents and will often work for lower wages then many US citizens would.  It is estimated that around eight million illegal immigrants are currently working in the US workforce.

Job availability is not the only problem facing immigration reform.

Taxpayers are paying around 36 million dollars a year to fund illegal immigrants schooling, medical bills and incarceration.

Although ideas of amnesty and guest worker programs seem like they would help, many of those working illegally are unlikely to change their status and they often don’t have the educational preparation or language skills to get work anywhere else, according to

Despite the fact the immigration continues to grow, the number of deportations is low. In 2003, only 186,151 aliens were formerly removed, according to the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Also, The Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates that nearly three-tenths of its prisoners are aliens.

Despite facts against them, organizations like Centro CHA, Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition and Building Healthy communities continue to support both immigration as well as immigration reform.

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