SAN FRANCISCO — Sen. Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 288 passed the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting with a 4-0 vote.
SB 288 would make it legal for Dreamers and other immigrants to run for California Democratic Party County Central Committee seats and for California Democratic Party Delegate positions.
It is currently impossible for Dreamers and other immigrants to register as Democrats and thus run for these positions.
A “Dreamer” is an individual born in a foreign country who was brought to the U.S. by family or others as a minor and subsequently raised in this country. Many have obtained college degrees, served in the military and became active participants in their communities.
“Immigrants are already leaders in our communities and deserve a seat at the table,” said Wiener. “Immigrants pay taxes and contribute to our economy, culture, and civic life. Our government was founded on the idea that everyone deserves a voice and this bill helps move us closer to that ideal.”
While existing law does not explicitly require that CDP delegates and central committee members be U.S. citizens, it does specify that, in order to be elected to a position within the CDP, a person must already be registered or affiliated with the party (Elections Code §7209). Registered voters’ party preference is shown on their affidavits of registration at the time they register to vote.
Since the affidavit must show an individual is eligible to vote, and non-U.S. citizens are ineligible to register to vote, Dreamers and other immigrants are unable to run for delegate or central committee seats in the CDP.
“I am a proud immigrant,” said Sarah Souza, a Dreamer and member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. “I am American in every way except for documentation. I dream of the day I become a citizen and register to vote. Meanwhile, I want to pave the way for all immigrants to fully participate in the California Democratic Party regardless of citizenship. SB288 is an opportunity for California to truly stand with immigrants; representation is crucial to advancing immigrant justice. California’s non-Citizen population is more than 5 million of the more than 38 million residents of California, and the California Democratic Party is stronger when we utilize the talents of all our residents. SB288 will set an important precedent in the history of California by allowing all Californians to have the ability to represent themselves.”
SB 288 allows Dreamers and other immigrants to take on both state and local leadership roles in the CDP. This important measure will help ensure that, in a party committed to empowering and expanding the rights of immigrants, the Dreamer and immigrant perspective can be present and a part of the Democratic Party.
An estimated 200,000 Dreamers live in California alongside a broader immigrant population of over 2.5 million. Although current law excludes Dreamers and other immigrants from taking on leadership roles in the Democratic and other political parties, a variety of related policies have aimed to better include them in other settings.
In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Lizbeth Mateo to serve as an education advisor.
Upon confirmation she became the first-ever Dreamer to receive a statewide appointment.
In early 2019 the Chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, David Campos, appointed a Dreamer, Sarah Souza, to serve on San Francisco’s Central Committee.
Recent legislative actions have also expanded Medi-Cal and other public benefits to many immigrants. Activists and policymakers affiliated with the CDP have been on the forefront of these changes, and there is a broad appetite within the party to better incorporate the perspectives of Dreamers and other immigrants into the political process.
SB 288 is co-authored by Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), and Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).