Friday, October 9, 2015

CA Bill To Allow Individuals With Deferred Entry of Judgment for Minor Drug Crimes to Withdraw Guilty Pleas and Receive Protection from Possible Deportation

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 1352, a piece of state legislation that could have meaningful benefits for noncitizens facing adverse immigration consequences as a result of minor drug crimes.  As immigration scholars and lawyers know, the definition of a “conviction” under the Immigration and Nationality Act is extremely broad, and even includes a number of scenarios in which adjudication of guilt is withheld by a criminal court – such as many deferred entry of judgment programs.  See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(48)(A).  According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which sponsored the bill, AB 1352 will allow a person who has successfully completed deferred entry of judgment and had his or her case dismissed, to withdraw his or her original guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty, which will protect them from draconian federal consequences, including deportation for legal permanent residents. 

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed a twin bill, AB 1351, which would have created additional drug sentencing reforms.

The ILRC press release is below:

Gov. Brown Signs Key Drug Reform Bill Into Law, But Vetoes Another

SACRAMENTO—California Governor Jerry Brown signed yesterday into law a key piece of drug reform legislation known as AB 1352 to help protect communities of color, including immigrants, from unjust consequences of the criminal justice system. At the same time, the Governor vetoed another measure, AB 1351, which would have brought further reforms to sentencing for certain drug crimes and limited disproportionate consequences for immigrants.
The two laws, AB 1351 and 1352, were cosponsored by the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource Center and authored by Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton).
The following statement is from Angie Junck, Supervising Attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center:
“We’re pleased the Governor signed a key piece of legislation to reform sentencing for certain drug crimes, but his veto of another important measure means immigrant families will continue to suffer devastating consequences from drug possession crimes for which they are seeking treatment. For those families and California’s immigrant community – additional reforms are still necessary.
“Under the governor’s leadership, the state has led the nation on criminal justice and immigration reforms – but there is still more to be accomplished. We’re disappointed that the Governor failed to sign both bills at this time, but encouraged that California and other states will continue to pursue reforms that save lives, save money, and strengthen our communities.”
According to a recent report from Human Rights Watch, deportations of noncitizens, including green card holders (lawful permanent residents), whose most serious conviction was for a drug offense rose 22 percent from 2004 to 2012. That number spiked by 43 percent for non-citizens with convictions for simple drug possession in particular, regardless of plea deals or successful completion of rehabilitation programs.


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