San Diego-area Assemblywoman’s Bills Are Part of State’s Efforts to Empower California’s Immigrants As Federal Reform Stalls
SAN DIEGO – (Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013) – California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) applauded Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement today that he signed into law legislation authored by Gonzalez to provide the state’s undocumented immigrants with consumer protections and career opportunities that will improve their quality of life and allow them to more productively contribute to California’s economy.
Brown signed into law Assembly Bills 1024 and 1159, both authored by Assemblywoman Gonzalez, as well as six other bills protecting immigrants on today’s National Immigration Day of Action, where rallies across the United States will draw attention to Congress’ inability to pass federal comprehensive immigration reform. Assemblywoman Gonzalez participated in one such rally at San Diego’s Balboa Park this morning.
AB 1024 will authorize the State Bar to award law licenses for immigrants who pass the State Bar exam. AB 1152 cracks down on immigration scams that have frequently surfaced since the President and Congress announced immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship was imminent.
“San Diego County and the rest of California has waited on Congress to fix our broken federal immigration laws for too long, but we can’t wait any longer. Our state must do what it can to improve the lives of people who are falling through the cracks because of Congress’ inaction,” Gonzalez said. “I want to thank Governor Brown for approving a package of reforms my State Capitol colleagues and I crafted to protect, empower and improve the quality of life for our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members who are suffering under the status quo.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez authored AB 1024 in an effort to permit the California State Supreme Court to admit as an attorney any applicant that has passed the State Bar examination and fulfilled all other requirements.
AB 1024 is a direct response to a case currently pending at the California State Supreme Court. Recently, the Court heard testimony in the case In Re Sergio C. Garcia on Admission (S202512), which concerned Mr. Garcia’s petition to obtain a law license in California. Having passed the State Bar examination and fulfilled all other requirements, Mr. Garcia was routinely sworn into the legal profession in 2011. Two weeks later, his license was rescinded on the basis that the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act passed by Congress in 1996 prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving professional licenses with the use of public funds, unless state law explicitly overrides it.
“AB 1024 completes the promise we’ve made to DREAMers who have worked hard, studied hard, passed the Bar exam and now just want the right to make a living for themselves as an attorney,” Gonzalez said. “I am also thrilled that the Governor’s endorsement of this law could lead to a positive outcome for Sergio Garcia, who through no fault of his own has been kept from reaching his own American Dream of becoming a lawyer.”
Gov. Brown also signed AB 1159, which would require that lawyers and consultants performing services under the pending federal immigration reform act abide by common sense business practices. Assemblywoman Gonzalez authored the bill in order to protect more than 2.5 million potentially eligible Californians from the unauthorized practice of law by non-lawyers, fraud, and unnecessary mistakes that could jeopardize a client’s pursuit of citizenship or – worse – result in deportation. The bill, which was sponsored by the State Bar of California, received unanimous support in both the Assembly and the Senate.
“As millions of California families face the historic opportunity of improving their lives by pursuing a pathway to citizenship, the state must be ready to ensure immigration services are performed by competent professionals and include anti-fraud protections,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “AB 1159 prepares California for this upswing in demand by creating more accountability and transparency in an otherwise daunting process for immigrants, who are already targets of fraud now.”
Under AB 1159, the state will crack down on the unscrupulous practice by some professionals to demand payment for immigration reform services by promising that clients could “cut to the front of the line” when federal immigration reform is eventually enacted by paying now. AB 1159 would prohibit those advanced payments. The bill also increases the bonding requirements for non-attorneys performing immigration reform services and requires that contracts for immigration reform services include a disclaimer about how to report immigration fraud to the State Bar or Attorney General in the language of the client receiving the services.
AB 1159 also expands current law to apply to “anyone who is not an attorney” from advertising as a “notario,” not just notaries public. This ban prevents confusion that has oftentimes been capitalized upon by non-attorneys hoping to present themselves as attorneys, as a “notario” in many Latin American nations is a type of lawyer.
In addition to Assemblywoman Gonzalez’s bills, Gov. Brown also signed into law other immigrant-related bills, including his approval on Wednesday of AB 60 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonvillle) to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants who qualify.
Other immigration-related bills signed into law by Gov. Brown on Saturday:
• AB 4 , known as the “TRUST Act,” by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) – Prohibits a law enforcement official from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless specified conditions are met.
• AB 35 by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) – Provides that immigration consultants, attorneys, notaries public, and organizations accredited by the United States Board of Immigration Appeals are the only individuals authorized to charge a fee for providing services associated with filing an application under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's deferred action program.
• AB 524 by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) – Provides that a threat to report the immigration status or suspected immigration status of an individual or the individual's family may induce fear sufficient to constitute extortion.
• SB 141 by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) – Requires that the California Community Colleges and the California State University, and requests that the University of California, exempt a United States citizen who resides in a foreign country, and is in their first year as a matriculated student, from nonresident tuition if the student demonstrates financial need, has a parent or guardian who was deported or voluntarily departed from the U. S., lived in California immediately before moving abroad, and attended a secondary school in California for at least three years.
• SB 150 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) – Authorizes a community college district to exempt pupils attending community colleges as a special part-time student from paying nonresident tuition.
• SB 666 by Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) – Provides for a suspension or revocation of an employer's business license for retaliation against employees and others on the basis of citizenship and immigration status, and establishes a civil penalty up to $10,000 per violation.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa. For more information, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a80/.