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April 10, 2023: Assembly Member Santiago and Los Angeles District Attorney Gascón Announce Immigrant Rights Act

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Assembly Member Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) joined Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL), Koreatown Youth & Community Center (KYCC), Thai Community Development Center and Chinatown Service Center (CSC) to announce the “Immigrant Rights Act” which is legislation that will help protect immigrant victims of crime. AB 1261 (Santiago, 2023) will help encourage undocumented Californians who are survivors and witnesses of crimes to come forward by protecting them from deportation. The crimes include (but are not limited to) stalking, extortion, and domestic violence. In order to fight anti-immigrant hate, California must reassure victims and witnesses that their livelihoods will not be threatened by coming forward to report a crime. Our collective public safety depends on all Californians feeling safe when they participate in our legal system.

“Californians should not lose their livelihoods simply because they came forward to report a crime,” said Assembly Member Santiago. “With AB 1261, we not only have a chance to reduce crime but also protect some of our most vulnerable community members. All Californians regardless of immigration status deserve to feel safe when participating in our legal system.”

“Far too often undocumented victims of crime and witnesses to crime are afraid to come forward because they are afraid of deportation. Your immigration status should never be a barrier to safety,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said. “Public safety for everyone and equal access to the justice system is possible if we protect those that are most vulnerable. I am proud to sponsor this important piece of legislation. 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.”

“Justice, just like the American Dream, should be attainable for all, including our undocumented community members. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be victims and survivors of crime than their citizen counterparts. AB 1261 is a true test of our State’s commitment to justice for all,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, First District.

"As an organization that provides legal services to the AAPI community, AJSOCAL encounters undocumented victims seeking help every day. We help victims of domestic violence obtain U Visas and victims of human trafficking obtain T visas, which can be thwarted or unduly delayed if the victim does not get a certification from a law enforcement agency. AB1261 removes hurdles for undocumented victims of crime who need these certifications and empowers them to come forward for help without the fear of deportation,” said Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL).

"KYCC commends Assemblymember Miguel Santiago on AB 1261 to uplift the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Steve Kang, Director of External Relations for KYCC. “As a leading organization focused on providing free tax prep services for low-income families, we continue to witness the positive contributions of undocumented workers in the growth of our economy. It is time that we provide assistance to our undocumented neighbors who are victims of violence to help facilitate visa applications to ensure justice for all."

"We are happy to see AB 1261, authored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago and sponsored by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, going into committee,” said Peter Ng, CEO of Chinatown Service Center. “This is good news and beneficial for the community and especially the API community. The "Immigrant Rights Act" protects undocumented immigrant victims from crimes of domestic violence, and human trafficking. 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.

"Often times, undocumented crime victims and witnesses are hesitant to seek assistance from law enforcement for fear of detection. Approximately 83% of the time undocumented folks are victims of a crime, they do not report them. Fears of detection, deportation, and dismissal prevent many undocumented victims to receive justice for the harm they have endured.

AB 1261 would promote California’s goal of protecting our most vulnerable residents by codifying the procedures for S visas and clarifying the procedures for U and T visas.

Assembly Member Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization. He represents the 54th District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Commerce, Montebello, and Vernon.