A group of people protesting
A protest attended by dozens of workers and worker rights advocates in support of the Safety Net for All Workers Act (SB 227). Photo by Yujie Zhou. Taken March 7, 2023.

The Board of Supervisors today unanimously adopted a resolution supporting a state-wide bill to establish unemployment benefits for undocumented workers. 

If passed, the Safety Net for All Workers Act (SB 227), sponsored by Senator María Elena Durazo, would provide undocumented workers who have been laid off with “$300 per week, for up to 20 weeks.” It would give undocumented workers a safety net for the first time in California’s history. 

“It is fundamentally unjust that undocumented workers have no access to unemployment benefits that they themselves have contributed millions to,” said supervisor Hillary Ronen in a protest before the board meeting, attended by dozens of workers and worker-rights advocates. Undocumented workers, who contribute to local communities, she said, should be treated the same as documented workers.

Payroll taxes on undocumented workers contribute $485 million a year  to California’s Unemployed Insurance system, according to the Safety Net for All Coalition, a group of more than 120 organizations across California that seek to expand safety-net programs for excluded immigrant workers.

“We cannot take people’s money, take people’s taxes, take people’s labor, and then deny them the very benefits and rights that they deserve and that they have earned,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said at the same protest.

Juan Mendoza, an unemployed worker and member of Trabajadores Unidos Workers United, described in Spanish the kind of economic hardship he experienced after the restaurant where he worked closed in the midst of the pandemic.

 “I am here speaking out, so that SB 227 is able to be passed, and so that us, as an immigrant community, get compensated for the hard work that we do,” said Mendoza.

SB 227 is not the first state bill of its kind. Last year, a similar piece of legislation, AB 2847, was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom on the grounds that “the bill needs further work to address operation issues and fiscal concerns,” following its passage by the legislature.

Programs similar to SB 227 have been adopted in New York and Washington, according to Jose Ng, an immigrant rights program manager at Chinese for Affirmative Action.

Ana Alfaro, a domestic worker and member of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, described her unemployment experience during the pandemic as “emotionally taxing and stressful.” She lost seven houses where she worked at the beginning of the pandemic, making it almost impossible to sustain her family. “During a national crisis, we were excluded from all of these benefits,” she said in Spanish. 

Ng, from Chinese for Affirmative Action, talked about how frustrating it was during the pandemic to tell undocumented workers that they did not qualify for any state or federal aid “ simply because you’re undocumented.”

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. Campers,

    The U.S. should not only open our borders …

    We should require Predatory American Foreign Capital Venture Corporations to pay Reparations to immigrants fleeing the Oppressive Regimes those corporations imposed upon them at the point of a gun.

    Corporations like:

    United Fruit


    you get the idea

    Go Niners !


  2. Honest question — I get that folks who pay unemployment tax should be able to claim unemployment, but how would this work in practice?

    If you’re undocumented and don’t have a social security number, how do you “pay into the system”? You’d need a social security number to fill out a W9 to be paid on the books with tax withholding. I guess you use a fake / stolen social security number to fill in the W9, but then you claim benefits using a fake / stolen social security number? Wouldn’t both the employer and employee be engaging in fraud?

    1. The feds want those taxes, so they provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number that udocumenteds can use to pay them.