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California Senate approves bill that restricts evidence of immigration status

[JURIST] The California Senate [official website] approved a bill [text] on Thursday that would limit evidence regarding a person's immigration status to situations where it is relevant.

Senate Bill 785 was introduced by state senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and assemblyperson Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) [official profiles] in February 2017.

The bill reads in part,

In a criminal action, evidence of a person's immigration status shall not be disclosed in open court by a party or his or her attorney unless the judge presiding over the matter first determines that the evidence is admissible in an in camera hearing requested by the party seeking disclosure of the person's immigration status.
Another section sets out the same provisions for any civil actions that are not already covered by a previous statute, which excludes evidence of a person's immigration status from personal injury or wrongful death suits.

The bill was passed [press release] in the Senate by a 31-6 vote. It passed in the Assembly on Monday with a 67-1 vote. The bill received bipartisan support in both houses.

"This bill will help victims of crime and witnesses to crime come forward and testify about what they have seen, not remain fearful to do so on the chance that their immigration status, which has nothing to do with the crime, will be made public," said Wiener.

The bill must be approved by the governor. If the governor signs the bill, it will go into effect immediately.

Conflicts over immigration matters persist at all levels of government. Last week seven state attorney generals filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging DACA. Last month a federal appeals court ruled against [JURIST report] the Trump administration's attempts to punish sanctuary cities. That same month the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the term "aggravated felony" in the Immigration and Nationality Act is unconstitutionally vague.

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