LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón joined two area legislators Monday to announce proposed legislation that could protect undocumented Californians who are crime victims or witnesses from being deported if they come forward.
"Far too often, undocumented victims of crime and witnesses to crime are afraid to come forward because they are afraid of deportation," the district attorney said in a statement. "Your immigration status should never be a barrier to safety. Public safety for everyone and equal access to the justice system is possible if we protect those that are most vulnerable. ... I will always advocate for policies and processes that increase access to justice for the undocumented members of our community while ensuring that people who cause harm are held accountable."
Crimes included under the measure include -- but are not limited to -- extortion, domestic violence and stalking.
The "Immigrant Rights Act" was authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and is sponsored by Gascón.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said those who are undocumented are "more likely to be victims and survivors of crime than their citizen counterparts," and called the measure a "true test of our state's commitment to justice for all."
The legislation, Assembly Bill 1261, has also garnered support from Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL), Koreatown Youth & Community Center (KYCC), Thai Community Development Center and Chinatown Service Center.
"The `Immigrant Rights Act' protects undocumented immigrant victims from crimes of domestic violence and human trafficking," said Peter Ng, chief executive officer of Chinatown Service Center. "With this bill, victims who help with the investigation can apply for a visa for them and their family to remain in the country. If you are a victim of such hideous crimes, please do not be afraid to report it. This law can protect you."
The measure would promote the state's goal of protecting its most vulnerable residents by codifying the procedures for certain types of visas for undocumented people who have either been victims of certain crimes or been witnesses who have aided in law enforcement investigations, according to proponents.
Connie Chung Joe, the chief executive officer of AJSOCAL, said the proposed legislation removes hurdles for undocumented crime victims involving the visas and "empowers them to come forward for help without the fear of deportation."