New law: Im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus not for open court

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA - By Melody Gu­tier­rez

SACRA­MENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thurs­day to limit when a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus can be dis­closed in open court, a mea­sure aimed at keep­ing crime vic­tims and wit­nesses from ex­pos­ing them­selves to pos­si­ble de­por­ta­tion when they take the stand.

SB785 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, re­quires that a judge hold a closed hear­ing to con­sider whether the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of a vic­tim, de­fen­dant or wit­ness is relevant be­fore al­low­ing it to be raised in open court.

The Leg­is­la­ture passed the bill as an ur­gency mea­sure, mean­ing it takes ef­fect im­me­di­ately.

“Our goal in purs­ing this leg­is­la­tion is to en­sure that im­mi­grants feel safe go­ing to court to tes­tify as a vic­tim or a wit­ness,” Wiener said. “Im­mi­grants are al­ready on edge, given ev­ery­thing hap­pen­ing in this coun­try.”

Wiener noted that fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents have de­tained peo­ple at Cal­i­for­nia court-

houses. U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said agents were pick­ing peo­ple up out­side court in cases where they have no al­ter­na­tive be­cause of sanc­tu­ary laws that re­strict when lo­cal au­thor­i­ties can co­op­er­ate in en­force­ment of im­mi­gra­tion laws.

“The last thing we need is for at­tor­neys to ha­rass im­mi­grants on the stand by ask­ing ir­rel­e­vant ques­tions about their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” Wiener said. “If vic­tims feel un­safe go­ing to court, then that un­der­mines pub­lic safety for ev­ery­one.”

San Francisco Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ge­orge Gascón said that re­veal­ing a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus in court dis­cour­ages oth­ers from com­ing for­ward to re­port crimes. Gascón sought the bill af­ter a dis­pute with San Francisco Pub­lic De­fender Jeff Adachi, whose at­tor­neys had re­vealed the im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus of al­leged crime vic­tims in sev­eral court cases in an ef­fort to dis­credit them.

Adachi’s at­tor­neys ques­tioned whether peo­ple re­port­ing crimes had ul­te­rior mo­tives for do­ing so — such as ob­tain­ing a visa avail­able for some crime vic­tims.

Adachi ini­tially de­fended the prac­tice when The Chron­i­cle re­ported it last year, then said ad­di­tional pre­cau­tions were be­ing taken to “en­sure that what we do doesn’t cre­ate an un­in­tended con­se­quence.”

The bill was op­posed by the Cal­i­for­nia News Pub­lish­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, an in­dus­try group rep­re­sent­ing news me­dia out­lets. It ar­gued that the cred­i­bil­ity of a wit­ness or al­leged vic­tim should be dis­cussed in open court, where at­tor­neys are free to ob­ject to what they con­sider ir­rel­e­vant ques­tions.

Un­der the bill, which passed the Leg­is­la­ture on May 10 with bi­par­ti­san sup­port, a judge can still de­ter­mine that a per­son’s im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus is relevant to a case, at which point it can be raised in open court.

“This was al­ways about pub­lic safety, not im­mi­gra­tion,” Gascón said in a state­ment. “The bi­par­ti­san sup­port this bill re­ceived is a tes­ta­ment to the fact that com­mu­nity safety ben­e­fits when im­mi­grants can come for­ward with­out fear of con­se­quences.”

Rus­sell Yip / The Chron­i­cle

State Sen. Scott Wiener said his bill aimed “to en­sure that im­mi­grants feel safe go­ing to court.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.