Gov. Newsom said the state will spend $4.5 million on free legal services for undocumented workers involved in state investigations of wage theft or other violations
SACRAMENTO, Calif — This story was originally published by CalMatters.
California will begin paying for free legal help with immigration for undocumented farmworkers who are involved in state investigations of wage theft or other labor violations, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced this week.
The $4.5 million pilot program will provide qualifying farmworkers with referrals for legal help with their immigration status.
Roughly half of California’s farmworker population is believed to be undocumented. Fear of deportation and difficulties finding jobs can discourage workers from filing labor complaints or serving as witnesses in cases alleging unsafe work temperatures, wage theft, or employer retaliation for unionizing, officials said.
“Farmworkers are the backbone of our economy, and we won’t stand by as bad actors use the threat of deportation as a form of exploitation,” Newsom said in a press release. “In the absence of Congress modernizing our broken, outdated immigration system, California continues our efforts to support immigrant families.”
Respecting immigrant rights
Farmworkers in labor investigations who qualify for the new state program will receive a direct referral to legal services organizations that already offer immigration services, such as the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County or the United Farm Workers Foundation, which spoke in support of the program.
The free legal services workers would receive include case review, legal advice and representation by an attorney, according to Newsom’s office.
“The time is now for us to ensure that immigrant labor rights are upheld and respected,” said Maria Elena