SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The California Judicial Council on Friday attempted to reiterate its commitment to equal access to justice for all the state’s residents, and in particular the Golden State’s sizeable immigration population.
The California court system will create and enhance a website intended to be “clearinghouse for available resources” for immigrants seeking information about the nation’s legal system, their rights and how to connect with nonprofits, lawyers, law schools and other resources, according to a presentation given by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dalila Lyons at the Judicial Council’s meeting Friday.
“It is designed to be the one-stop for immigrants navigating the legal system,” Lyons, who is the co-chair of the Immigration Resources Workgroup, said.
California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye praised the effort to provide a resource to immigrants, saying more and more people are pouring into state courts looking for answers.
“Here in San Francisco they come into our courts asking if we are a federal court and I know that’s true in other places,” Cantil-Sakauye said. “I am very grateful this information is made available and immigrants have a place to go to get timely information.”
The immigration resources website was created after a Pew Research paper concluded that approximately 80 percent of the Latino population in California has access to the internet, with the majority connecting through mobile devices, Lyons said.
Lyons’ workgroup believed the creation and dissemination of a website was the best way to make sure immigrants can access resources and answers to questions that have become more pressing in the era of President Donald Trump.
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng, who also co-chairs the group, said the website will be careful to remain politically neutral and not take positions on any controversial issues, including undocumented immigration.
“It doesn’t provide legal advice; it just connects immigrants to attorneys and government agencies,” he said.
The website will be divided up into three parts, the first of which supplies basic information including the division of state and federal courts.
“They need to understand that states do not have jurisdiction over immigration matters,” Lyons said, adding that the section is also an attempt to clearly define the United States’ judicial system since many immigrants come from nations with very different legal systems.
The second section will offer contact information for immigration attorneys, nonprofits, law schools and other resources for the immigrant community.
Finally, the third section deals with families and children.
“We wanted to provide self-help for families at risk of separation due to deportation,” Lyons said.
Despite the ostensible political neutrality espoused by the working group’s leadership, Cantil-Sakauye has written a pointed letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to note California’s objections to the practice of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents trolling state courts looking for undocumented immigrants.
“Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” she wrote in the March 16 letter.
At Friday’s meeting, several judges commended Cantil-Sakauye for her letter.
“Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the contents of the letter, I think it shows deep care for our judges and our courts,” Judicial Council member and LA County Superior Court Presiding Judge Daniel Buckley said.
Cantil-Sakauye said she was responding to concerns raised by several judges in different jurisdictions, and would keep the council apprised of Sessions’ answer when she receives it.
The Immigration Resources Directory is set to go live within the next couple of weeks. It will be translated into Spanish, and the working group said it will eventually be translated into other languages as well.