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California enacts law that limits when immigration status can be used in open court

[JURIST] California Governor Jerry Brown [official website] signed SB 785 [text] into law on Thursday, placing limitations on when a person's immigration status can be disclosed in an open court.

The law adds two new sections to the Evidence Code—one that addresses civil cases and one for criminal cases. In both types of cases, the law will require a party to seek a hearing in the judge's chambers prior to disclosing a person's immigration status. The law states that the law is necessary in order to "immediately help protect undocumented residents of California and their ability to participate in the California justice system."

The law has exceptions that allow revealing a person's immigration status if necessary to prove an element of the claim/offense, and the law does not prevent a person from voluntarily revealing their own immigration status. Both new sections come with sunset clauses that will automatically repeal the laws after January 1, 2022.

The bill passed [JURIST report] the California Senate last week. The Department of Justice has recently filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against California in March over three laws that were meant to protect undocumented immigrants in the state.

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