Limit on Court Disclosure of Immigration Status Signed Into Law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – One day after President Donald Trump railed against California’s immigration policies and called some of its undocumented residents “animals,” Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a measure meant to keep immigration agents out of California’s courtrooms.

The pro-immigrant measure prohibits the disclosure of litigant and witness immigration statuses in criminal and civil hearings without a judge’s prior consent. Supporters say the measure will encourage immigrants to testify by removing the fear of having their immigration status revealed in open court.

Attempted arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents has skyrocketed during the Trump administration, prompting California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to ask U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions to stop courthouse deportations.

State lawmakers said they are sending the Trump administration a clear message: keep ICE out of state courts.

“Our courthouses should be places of justice, not places where immigrants are threatened with deportation,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener in a statement. “This law makes everyone in our community safer by ensuring that witnesses and victims of crime are not afraid to report crimes, go to court, and hold criminals accountable.”

Under Wiener’s Senate Bill 785, attorneys can only disclose evidence about a person’s immigration status in open court with a judge’s approval. The requesting attorney would have to present the evidence to the presiding judge during an in camera hearing. Additionally, attorneys would be barred from voluntarily revealing clients’ immigration status during public court hearings.

On Wednesday, Trump hosted an immigration roundtable with some California Republicans and law enforcement officers that are against the Golden State’s sanctuary policies. Trump called the California Republicans – which as a party make up 25 percent of the state’s voting base – “patriotic citizens who want their borders.”

Brown didn’t hold back, firing off a scathing tweet accusing the president of lying about the state’s immigration laws.

“Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed,” Brown wrote.

Wiener, a Democrat representing San Francisco, crafted the bill with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights.

The Legislature overwhelmingly passed SB 785 as an urgency measure and the bill goes into effect immediately. Nearly two dozen state Republicans voted in favor of SB 785.

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