READ: Our new comic, Broken Stems, is a story about how California prisons tear apart families by voluntarily colluding with ICE.

ALC Co-Sponsors Three Statewide Bills for a More Inclusive Democracy & Immigrant Justice

April 17, 2023 Perspective

ALC is co-sponsoring statewide California bills this year on voting rights and immigrant justice. These measures will increase inclusion and transparency in California’s democracy, and make our state safer for immigrant families.

AB 884: Language Access in Election Materials

For California’s democracy to work for all of us, every eligible Californian should be able to register and cast their ballot. We’re the most diverse state, but outdated and inadequate laws block many of California’s 3 million eligible voters who have limited English proficiency from becoming informed voters and fairly casting their ballots.

For example, California’s two fastest-growing populations––Asian Americans and Latinos––are also the groups most likely to speak English less than very well and the least likely to vote. In California, just 48% of eligible Asian Americans and 53% of eligible Latinos turned out to vote in the November 2020 general election, compared to 67% of non-Asian Americans and non-Latinos.

This year, alongside Common Cause CA and Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), we’re co-sponsoring AB 884. Co-authored by Assemblymembers Evan Low and Sabrina Cervantes, the bill would set a new standard for inclusive, multiracial democracies in the U.S. and take a powerful step forward in creating a democracy that represents all of us, whether we speak English, Arabic, Spanish, Vietnamese, or any other language at home.

Over the past year, ALC co-organized listening sessions with Korean American and Cambodian American elders in the Bay Area to understand their experiences with our voting system. Many participants shared that the current system of translated reference ballots is confusing and not very helpful. In addition, current federal and state laws completely exclude languages like Arabic and Somali from language assistance requirements.

A clear example of the need for language assistance is in San Diego County, where Filipino voter registration rose by more than 20% and Vietnamese voter registration rose by almost 40% after the county started providing translated voting materials and recruiting bilingual poll workers.

AB 884 would strengthen our democracy by ensuring that voters who are not fluent in English have equal access to the ballot when the population who speaks their language reaches a certain size. If AB 884 passes, these California voters would gain access to votable ballots and registration forms in the languages they use and prefer, as well as dedicated county-specific web pages with translated election information. Voters would also be able to use the state’s toll-free interpretation hotline in more languages.

By passing AB 884, California can embrace our state’s full diversity and give many more communities equal weight in a stronger and more inclusive democracy.

AB 764: Fair and Transparent Redistricting

Every 10 years, congressional districts, state districts, and local districts are redrawn to reflect the changes in population and growing diversity. If districts are drawn fairly and keep communities of interests together, we can more effectively vote for elected officials who will best fight for our needs, including resources for housing, education, healthcare, and more. In the 2020 cycle, ALC created multilingual educational resources and trained hundreds of community members on how to use online map drawing tools and provide feedback on map proposals.

Yet, despite thousands of Californians organizing to give public comment and advocate for equitable district lines, some politicians chose to abuse redistricting to protect their incumbency at the expense of their constituents. This created barriers to transparent decision-making and full, diverse community participation.

This year, with Common Cause CA, the League of Women Voters of CA, and ACLU California Action, we’re co-sponsoring AB 764 to make local redistricting processes in California more transparent, non-partisan, and responsive to community input. Authored by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, this new legislation builds on California’s current FAIR Maps Act (FMA), which was passed in 2019 to prohibit partisan gerrymandering and require local governments to increase community engagement in redistricting. Still, as we saw in 2020 and 2021, California must strengthen the FMA to make sure community input is fully considered and reflected in all maps.

Earlier this year, we conducted a statewide investigation of the most recent local redistricting cycle, including evaluations of over 100 local jurisdictions’ redistricting processes and interviews with dozens of community-based organizations. Alongside a coalition of civil rights and civic engagement organizations, we released findings from that investigation in a new report, The Promise of Fair Maps. The report documents how community groups across California––from Los Angeles to the Central Valley to the Bay Area––often felt frustrated by redistricting processes that were opaque, poorly implemented, or manipulated for political purposes. It also provides recommendations for reforming local redistricting to create a more transparent, inclusive, and community-responsive process going forward.

AB 764 aims to address these problems by explicitly prohibiting incumbency protection in the redistricting process and emphasizing communities of interest as a legal criterion in map drawing. Through the legislation, Californians would have more opportunities to share their input on local district map proposals, and would be able to testify remotely or in-person at all redistricting hearings. County and city governments would also be required to post information about redistricting and draft map proposals on public websites, making it easier for people to understand their local process and participate.

AB 1306: Harmonizing Our Measures for Equality (HOME Act)

Across all of our work, we believe our state’s laws should be driven by the best of our values: equality, fairness, and common humanity. Our home city and state are enriched every day by the diversity of experiences, cultures, and traditions that all of us bring. Californians who are immigrants and refugees are beloved members of our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, places of worship and faith, sports teams, and so much more.

This year, as part of our leadership in the ICE Out of CA coalition over the past 10+ years, we’re co-sponsoring the HOME (Harmonizing Our Measures for Equality) Act or AB 1306 by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. The bill is an important step towards achieving our vision that just like any other Californian, immigrant community members shouldn’t be subjected to a cruel double punishment by ICE after the Parole Board, the Governor, or the courts deem them eligible for release from state prison. Instead, these community members should be able to return home to their loved ones and contribute back, rather than be detained and deported, often to countries they have never known.

The HOME Act is a simple––yet life-changing––fix that will harmonize state policy with broadly-supported, existing criminal justice reforms that have already been acted into law. These laws are reducing mass incarceration and addressing racism in our legal systems––and they should apply equally to everyone, no matter where they were born.
Under the HOME Act, all Californians will be able to return home and rebuild their lives if they are released from our state prison system under these reforms, including:

  • The Racial Justice Act for All (AB 256 of 2022)
  • Justice for Survivors Act (AB 124 of 2022)
  • Compassionate releases for those who are sick and dying (AB 960 of 2021)
  • Reforms for people who received convictions as youth (SB 260, SB 261, AB 1308, SB 394)
  • Reform of harsh laws that caused people to be sentenced for murders they did not commit (SB 1437 of 2018)
  • Elderly and medical parole releases
  • Clemency actions by the Governor

In a recent press conference, Asm. Wendy Carrillo, Sen. Bradford, Asm. Kalra, and Asm. Lee joined community leaders Tin Nguyen and Sandra Castaneda to launch the bill.

In 2021, state prison officials transferred Sandra to ICE despite the fact that a judge had overturned her murder conviction. At the press conference, she shared: “Getting handed over to ICE was a heartbreaking experience for my family and me. I was still being treated less than human. The way ICE treated any non-English speaking immigrants was so frustrating and heartbreaking to me… Please pass the HOME Act. We need it.”