Earlier this week, California Governor Jerry Brown with little fanfare signed into law A.B. 2159, which could have important impacts on undocumented immigrants seeking to vindicate their rights in the courts.
As described in the bill,
"Existing law provides that all relevant evidence is admissible in an action before the court, including evidence relevant to the credibility of a witness or hearsay declarant, subject to specified exceptions.
This bill would provide that, in civil actions for personal injury or wrongful death, evidence of a person’s immigration status is not admissible and discovery of a person’s immigration status is not permitted. The bill would also provide that these restrictions do not affect the standards of relevance, admissibility, or discovery under other specified provisions of law." (emphasis added).
By barring evidence of a litigant or witnesses' undocumented status, the bill helps ensure that a jury or judge is not prejudiced by a person's immigration status. This will tend to level the playing field in adjudicating disputes when undocumented persons are involved in litigation. The bill is a move in the right direction. It is one of a number of recent bills passed by the California legislature designed to better integrate immigrants into society.