Immigration status protected from court disclosure

Just one day after President Donald Trump said California has “sparked a rebellion” with its sanctuary city and state policies, Gov. Jerry Brown signed new legislation Thursday preventing undocumented immigrants from having their immigration status disclosed in court.

Senate Bill 785 states that the immigration status of a witness, victim or defendant cannot be discussed or questioned unless a judge deems that information relevant and admissible, and that attorneys must convince the judge in a private hearing before raising the issue in open court.

The authors argue that disclosing that information can discourage witnesses and victims of crime from coming forward, and it helps Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents find targets for arrest.

The legislation comes after a report by the Immigrant Defense Project indicating that the number of arrests attempted by ICE agents at courthouses in New York had increased by 900 percent in 2017. Similar incidents have been reported in California.

Proponents of such tactics have argued that arresting immigrants in secure environments like courthouses and jails provides for a higher level of officer safety and reduces any risks posed to the communities where such arrests might occur in public.

It was co-authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco. It was also sponsored by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

Wiener said:

“Our courthouses should be places of justice, not places where immigrants are threatened with deportation, … I want to thank Governor Brown for signing the bill and recognizing that actual public safety is served by everyone feeling safe coming forward to testify in court.”

Gascon said in a statement:

“Where you come from has no bearing on whether or not you’re fit to step up to the witness stand and tell your story … This is a win for public safety and the administration of justice.”

SB 785, which as an urgency measure required two-thirds approval by the state Legislature, goes into effect immediately.