Bill Introduced to Stop Irrelevant Disclosures of Immigration Status in Open Court

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Sacramento –  Last week, Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) announced a bill to protect immigrants from irrelevant disclosures of their immigration status in open court. SB 785 requires that any questions about the immigration status of any witness, victim, or defendant first be deemed by a judge to be relevant to the subject of the litigation before. This preliminary judicial determination will prevent disclosure of immigration status, which can deter and chill witnesses from coming forward to testify in both criminal and civil cases.

“People should not fear that stepping onto the witness stand could be a first step towards deportation,” said Senator Wiener. “The focus of our justice system should be discovering the truth, not scaring potential witnesses by disclosing their immigration status when it is unrelated to the case. Immigration status, when unrelated to the facts of the case, should be left outside the courtroom doors.”

“We can and should protect all California residents from inadvertent exposure when they are testifying in a courtroom. No one should have to decide between being a witness and being deported,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.

SB 785 bars any reference to immigration status in court, unless it is first determined to be admissible. To establish admissibility, an attorney must persuade a judge in a private, in camera hearing before raising the issue in open court. The judge will then determine whether to allow the issue to be raised.

This bill is sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

“Unreported crimes and criminals pose a threat that extends far beyond immigrant communities,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.  “If an undocumented victim or witness fears that their immigration status is going to be on trial they are far less likely to come forward and hold a dangerous person accountable.  The chilling effect this has on participation undermines the fair administration of justice.”

Recently, California’s Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, “Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.” (FULL LETTER)

However, when individuals come forward to participate in court cases as victims or witnesses, some attorneys are raising their immigration status, even when that status is not relevant to the facts of the case. This creates as a chilling effect, which can prevent victims and witnesses from coming forward, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can use these proceedings to identify and locate individuals targeted for deportation. Recent news accounts in California and New York have reported that ICE agents have been showing up in Courts, monitoring trials, and making arrests.

This act amends a portion of the Evidence Code that was set by the voters in 1982, so to amend it requires a 2/3 vote by the legislature. SB 785 will also include an urgency statute, which will make it effective immediately upon passage.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Oh my my my dear useless Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego). Have you ever been selected to serve on a jury in California? The number one method used to get out of jury service is to reveal you are not a citizen by claiming lack of communication in English an sometimes flat out say “I’m not from this country”

    Stop wasting your time on bills that look good as “Representing the People” and give us something worthwhile.

    • It is obvious, you didn’t read the article. This legislation is NOT about jury service. To be a juror in this country requires US citizenship.

      This legislation is about protecting immigrants from irrelevant disclosures of their immigration status in open court. SB 785 requires that any questions about the immigration status of any witness, victim, or defendant first be deemed by a judge to be relevant to the subject of the litigation before.

      What is so hard to understand in this summary?

      • @Sean – Jury service gets names from registered voters. Registered voters come from voter registration by filling out the paperwork. No proof of citizenship required. Just signing on your word that you are a US citizen. The defendant is present during Jury selection. Both defendant and jury may openly disclose their immigration status in court. The law covers everyone in court, not just the defendant.

        I witnessed a Judge ask “how long have you been in the US?” “Why haven’t you spoken English since you arrived?” “Do you plan to learn English so you can logically cast a vote or participate as a peer here in court?”

  2. I agree. These politicians must have something better to do than wasting our tax dollars on suing each other and making comfort rules for illegals in this country. How about fixing waste and repairing our roads. Maybe work on a way to shave down our states debt.

  3. I agree. These politicians must have something better to do than wasting our tax dollars on suing each other and making comfort rules for illegals in this country. How about fixing waste and repairing our roads. Maybe work on a way to shave down our states debt.

  4. Lorena and WEEEEner, taking CA right down the path to failure. What you gonna do when the middle class cashes out and leaves you to enjoy the train wreck. Those that can do, those that can’t legislate. FU, see you in Nevada. Pay attention – no income tax, no CRV, no paint and no lumber recycle fees and no outlandish registration and gas tax fees in the Silver State.

  5. People who did not come to this country with the proper paperwork generated by the United States Immigration Service, do NOT belong in this country and it is everybody’s duty, INCLUDING THE LOCAL POLICE, to see to it that they are discovered and DEPORTED! These are NOT immigrants! They are INVADERS!

  6. The only legislation I will support is the one that identifies all the illegals and lists what govt services they are ripping off.

    Then use that list to deport every single one of the parasite leeches.

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