Because California Democrats control the governorship, the state senate, and the state assembly, legislative proposals that would normally face obstacles in being passed now sail through unimpeded. A new bill, AB 1401 was passed, allowing legal immigrants who are not American citizens to serve on juries in California.
The bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk on Thursday, where AB 817, another piece of Democrat legislation that allows legal permanent residents to be poll workers, is waiting for his signature.
Democrats were adamant that they were doing the right thing; regarding the jury bill, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) said immigrants “are part of the fabric of our community… They benefit from the protections of our laws, so it is fair and just that they be asked to share in the obligation to do jury duty.”
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) agreed, saying, “Really, it’s about making sure that we uphold the standards of our justice system and make sure everybody is afforded a jury of their peers.”
Republicans tried to block the bills, but simply did not have the votes. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) said, “I do think there is something called the jury of your peers. Peers are people who understand the nuances of America.” He pointed out that some immigrants only know systems of justice wherein suspects are guilty until proven innocent and where the government is never challenged.
The bill revolving around poll workers also had a partisan divide; its author, Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), said, “We have a shortage of multilingual poll workers in California. There must be language access for voters at the polls, and that’s what this bill provides.”
But Assemblyman Tom Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) disagreed. He said, “Allowing people who are not actually eligible to vote to work in the polling places, I believe, would be a grave mistake. The net effect is going to be to undermine the confidence that the citizens of California have in their election process.” Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) concurred, stating, “Something doesn’t smell right to me.”
AB 817 was proposed by the National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.
A third bill, AB 1195, from Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), was also sent to Brown on Thursday. It prevents law enforcement agencies from requiring proof of legal residency to obtain a crime report.