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Blog Post · June 7, 2024

Video: A Conversation with US Senator Alex Padilla

photo - Capitol Building Dome with Fresco

On May 30 in Sacramento, PPIC president and CEO Tani Cantil-Sakauye sat down with US senator Alex Padilla for a wide-ranging conversation about major challenges facing California and the nation, from addressing climate change to finding common ground in the Senate to ensuring voting rights in a consequential election year.

“When you represent a state of 40 million people, it often feels like there are 40 million number one priorities,” joked Padilla. But he went on to name three: climate change “in all its manifestations,” voting rights, and immigration reform.

“There are so many long-term residents in the US who happen to be undocumented,” Padilla said. “We rely on them, we designate them as essential workers, but we can’t give them the dignity of living without fear of deportation.” In addition to creating pathways for long-term residents to become citizens, he said, successful reform needs to address border security and improve the asylum process.

Padilla acknowledged that immigration reform is politically difficult. “We haven’t been able to achieve the modernization of policies,” he said. He cited a recent measure that included border controls and had bipartisan support until former president Trump weighed in against it. But he also said that he voted against that measure in part because “too much of it was going back to failed Trump policies.” He was especially concerned about what was left out of the legislation: “This was the first time, that I can recall, that Democrats almost unified behind a proposal which related to the border and immigration without fighting for Dreamers or farmworkers.”

Asked about the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides funding for a range of renewable energy projects, he stressed the need to focus not just on generating clean energy but also on transmitting it: “As our economy grows, we’re going to need more energy, and we want it to be clean,” he said. “But how do we deliver the energy from where we can produce it cleanly to where it is needed?”

Padilla said that much will be at stake in the November election—including reproductive rights, addressing climate change, and preserving fundamental democratic norms. But he is cautiously optimistic about the democratic process. “I’m hopeful, and there are some positive signs,” he said. He pointed to the numbers of people who are registering to vote: “People know that civic participation—and voter participation in particular—is a way to influence the future.”


PPIC’s Speaker Series on California’s Future invites thought leaders and changemakers with diverse perspectives to participate critically, constructively, and collaboratively in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.

PPIC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. PPIC does not take or support positions on any ballot measure or on any local, state, or federal legislation, nor does it support, endorse, or oppose any political parties or candidates for public office. Any opinions expressed by event participants are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect any position of the Public Policy Institute of California.


2024 Election climate change Donald Trump elections Immigrants in California immigration Political Landscape renewable energy undocumented immigrant US Senate voter participation voter registration voting rights