Gov. Jerry Brown called Monday for a "smooth and rapid" path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, telling U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in a letter that he is working to find state money that may be used to implement potential changes to the nation's immigration system, including employment requirements and assistance learning English.
"In order to avoid dire consequences for our state, comprehensive immigration reform must occur this year and the resulting path to citizenship must be smooth and rapid," Brown said in a letter to Feinstein ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today on a bipartisan immigration bill.
The Democratic governor said California and the nation "are choosing to accept the undocumented workers who have entered our country illegally because neither industry nor the workers themselves were ever given any viable option to fill our labor demands legally."
Brown said those workers should be afforded an expeditious path to citizenship, not "held in a state of purgatory for ten years."
Brown's letter comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee considers an immigration bill introduced last month by the so-called Gang of Eight.
Brown called "fundamental to the state's economy" the contributions of California's immigrants, "from the engineers and programmers working in the Silicon Valley on H-1B visas, to the 2.9 million undocumented workers toiling mostly in the service and agricultural industries."
He said immigrants are among California's most creative and productive residents, and he said "the energy and initiative of immigrants constitute our state's greatest hope for a dynamic and prosperous future."
Brown said high-tech companies are burdened by the existing cap on H1B visas, while California's service and agricultural industries depend on the work of undocumented immigrants.
He encouraged the Judiciary Committee to accept an amendment to the immigration bill that would use proceeds from employer-based immigration fees to provide funding for science, technology, engineering and math education at the state level.
Brown said he has asked Marty Morgenstern, secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, to identify any special fund money that may be used to help implement immigration changes, and he said Morgenstern is convening a task force on agricultural labor needs.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee