A conservative group has sued California Gov. Gavin Newsom to block his allocation of $75 million to provide financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic to immigrants in the country illegally who don’t qualify for unemployment insurance.
The nonprofit Center for American Liberty filed an emergency petition with the California Supreme Court requesting a stay on the governor’s action, arguing state and federal law bar unemployment benefits to those without legal status and that providing the money to nonprofit groups represents an improper gift of taxpayer funds.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Whittier City Councilwoman Jessica Martinez and Ricardo Benitez, an immigrant from El Salvador who is now a U.S. citizen. Both plaintiffs are Republican candidates for the state Assembly. Benitez is running to represent the 39th Assembly District in the San Fernando Valley and Martinez is vying to represent the 57th Assembly District in the southern San Gabriel Valley.
“This is taxpayer money that may only be appropriated by the legislative branch. This is not a slush fund for the governor to spend as he sees fit,” Harmeet K. Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and chief executive officer for the Center for American Liberty, said in a written statement. “At a time when law-abiding Californians are crushed by unemployment, housing issues, business closures and massive limitations on our normal lives, Governor Newsom is doing an end-run around the legal guardrails in place.”
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