Dr. Pan Introduces Legislation to Extend Civil Rights to Protect Immigrants from Discrimination

April 7, 2015

Sacramento – At a press conference to unveil a legislative package that would enhance protections for undocumented immigrants, Dr. Richard Pan, a State Senator representing Sacramento, announced the introduction of Senate Bill 600, which would prohibit businesses in the state from discriminating against immigrants based on their immigration status, citizenship and language.

“California is home to over 10 million immigrants who make up over 10 percent of our workforce and who contribute $130 billion annually to our gross domestic product,” said Dr. Richard Pan, a State Senator representing Sacramento. “Immigrants contribute greatly to our state and they deserve to be protected from discrimination so that they continue to work hard and provide for their families.”

Under the Unruh Civil Acts Right in California, businesses are already prohibited from discriminating based on age, ancestry, color, disability, genetic information, medical condition, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. SB 600 would provide these much-needed protections to immigrants by adding immigration status, citizenship, and language.

While immigrants are vital for helping our economy flourish, they are vulnerable to discrimination, hate crimes, and unequal access.  Examples include instances when people have been denied service or asked to leave establishments because they were conversing with companions in a foreign language. Other examples include day laborers who have been barred from establishments, and individuals who have been denied entrance to entertainment venues or denied service when they present proof of age with a foreign passport or foreign government issued identification card. 

In 1999, AB 407 (Cedillo) attempted to add “immigration status” to the list of protected characteristics in the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The bill was vetoed by Governor Davis, and in his signing message he stated that the Act address discrimination based on “immigration status” because it already specified “national origin”.  However, the US Supreme Court has held in 1973 and again in 1991 that “citizenship” and “language” are not the same as “national origin”, and that federal constitutional civil rights protections are not covered by the “national origin” characteristic.

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