SAN DIEGO — California could soon become the first state in the nation to give non-citizens the right to serve on jurors.
Assembly Bill 1401 would allow legal non-permanent residents the right to serve on a jury.
Under current law, only U.S. citizens can serve on juries, but many immigration rights advocates believe those who live in the United States legally but are not citizens should also have that right.
“There are people who’ve been in the United States for many, many years and for one reason or another have chosen or cannot become U.S. citizens, but feel part of their communities,” said immigration rights advocate Pedro Rios.
It’s why he and others are calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to sign the bill, but republicans who unanimously voted against the bill, claim non-citizens aren’t familiar enough with the American legal system and its values to serve in a jury.
“Not all societies share the same believe that you’re innocent until proven guilty,” said Assemblyman Rocky Chávez of Oceanside.
“In other countries, it’s sometimes appropriate for the male of the house to use force against his spouse, here we call that domestic violence. If you had somebody who saw that element in a different light you’d have a different outcome,” Chávez said.
Chávez also told Fox5 there’s no need for the measure given there’s no lack of jurors reported statewide.
Still, those in favor of extending the right to legal residents say not signing this bill into law is un-American.
“If we look at the history of jury duty, there was a point when women were not permitted, so looking at how history provides for an expansion of rights, we need to continue that tradition,” said Rios.
Governor Jerry Brown has until October 13 to sign or veto the bill. He could also choose to allow it to become law without his signature.