In summary

U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla tells the “California State of Mind” podcast Democratic majorities in Congress mean “the timing is right” to provide undocumented migrants a path to citizenship.

Alex Padilla has only been in the U.S. Senate for four months, but California’s first Latino senator is already embroiled in some of the most contentious issues in Congress, from water rights and infrastructure to immigration reform and clean energy. 

Appointed in January by Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill out the Senate term of Vice President Kamala Harris, Padilla faces an election next year. 

On the latest episode of the “California State of Mind” podcast, Padilla says California’s energy grid has capacity to meet growing demand as summer approaches — but that doesn’t remove the need to address climate change. 

“The electric grid is prepared to handle the increased load,” Padilla said. “It’s not a question of whether the grid is ready or not. It’s, ‘Can our planet take it otherwise?’”

Dismissing the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era fuel emission standards as a “road bump,” Padilla noted President Biden’s renewed focus on electric vehicles can be traced back to the work the state did with car manufacturers to lower emission standards. 

Hope for immigration reform bill

On immigration reforms, Padilla said the 2013 Senate immigration bill that passed in the Senate 68-32 — but was never introduced in the House — is “a place to start working from.” 

Padilla believes that the slim majorities in Congress are enough for Democrats to revive elements of that immigration bill, such as providing a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants and clearing the backlog of immigration applications. 

“The timing is right to make significant progress,” Padilla said. “There’s a new majority in the U.S. Senate. It’s a bare majority, but a majority nonetheless.” 

That, and a Democrat as president “gives me an immediate seat at the table in all those conversations,” Padilla said. 

Some of those conversations are with members of Congress whom Padilla said have been “racing down to the border” in recent months to argue for the deportation of undocumented children in custody, which he called “a pretext for obstruction or just off-base.”

More than personal

Padilla, the son of Mexican immigrants, said a 2021 immigration bill is more than personal. 

“There’s no state that has more at stake when it comes to immigration policy than the state of California,” Padilla said.  

Padilla also criticized the pending recall of Newsom. 

“It’s a horrible, horrible idea,” Padilla said. “It’s hypocritical, it’s wrong and we’ll do what it takes to defeat the recall.”

Listen to the “California State of Mind” episode, co-hosted by Nicole Nixon and guest co-host Nigel Duara. Subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Follow @yourgoldenstate, @CalMatters and @CapRadioNews on Twitter to engage with our show every week and see the top California news of the day.

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Nigel Duara joined CalMatters in 2020 as a Los Angeles-based reporter covering poverty and inequality issues for our California Divide collaboration. Previously, he served as a national and climate correspondent...