California Governor Jerry Brown vetoes immigrant jurors

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The governor of California has vetoed a bill that would have allowed non-citizen immigrants to serve on juries.

On Monday Jerry Brown called jury duty “quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship”.

His fellow Democrats, who passed the bill in the state legislature, argued it would expand the jury pool and provide a jury of peers for non-citizens on trial.

Recently, California has expanded privileges to the state’s immigrants.

For example, Mr Brown has signed a law allowing immigrants living illegally in California to apply for driving licences.

Civic obligation
The California debate comes amid a larger national discussion about the rights and status of illegal immigrants in the US.

A bill in Congress in Washington DC that would provide some type of legal status to the more than 11 million illegal immigrants in the US has stalled amid conservative opposition in the House of Representatives.

The California jury duty bill’s sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, said in an interview that he was “disappointed” with the veto, because such immigrants were “part of the fabric of our communities”.

“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, just as they serve in our courts, schools, police departments and armed forces,” he said.

“I don’t see anything wrong with imposing this civic obligation on immigrants who can spend the rest of their lives in the United States.”

usaThe bill would have applied only to legal permanent residents, also known as green card holders. Those are not US citizens.

Lawmakers in the Republican minority had argued any juror shortage was due to a lack of funding for the system, not a dearth of people available to serve on panels.

“The debate over this bill attempted to create a social wedge in our communities over our justice system,” Assemblymen Rocky Chavez said on Monday.

“The phrase ‘jury of your peers’ still means something in our criminal justice system.”

An estimated 10 million Californians are summoned for jury duty each year and about four million are eligible and available to serve, according to the state’s Judicial Council.

 

BBC © 2013

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