SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would place strict limits on the disclosure of a person’s immigration status in open court, continuing the sanctuary state’s rebellion against the Trump administration’s illegal immigration crackdown.
Senate Bill 785 was introduced in response to news reports of ICE agents tracking down undocumented immigrants in courthouses across the country. It takes aim at a tactic that advocates say is keeping many immigrants from testifying in court, reporting crimes or simply showing up to pay a ticket.
“This is about protecting public safety,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, one of the bill’s authors, in a statement Thursday. “Our criminal-justice system can’t function if witnesses or victims are afraid to testify out of fear of being deported. You should be able to testify against a murderer or rapist without fearing that you or your loved ones will be thrown out of the country as a result.”
A spokesman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency doesn’t comment on pending legislation.
The bill, introduced last year by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, passed the Senate Thursday with a bipartisan vote of 31-6. Six of the 13 Senate Republicans voted for the proposal and one did not vote.
If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, it will take effect immediately.
“Courts need to be safe zones, but with rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C., that demonizes immigrants and threatens mass deportations, entering a courtroom is more daunting than ever. Public safety is suffering as a result,” wrote Wiener in an editorial for the Sacramento Bee Monday with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who sponsored the measure.
Wiener’s office said some attorneys are revealing the immigration status of victims or witnesses who come forward to participate in court cases, even when it’s not relevant, creating a “chilling effect” that can prevent others from coming forward.
By Tatiana Sanchez for THE MERCURY NEWS
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