Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 617, which provides taxpayer-funded lawyers to undocumented immigrants, including those with violent felony convictions such as rape and murder.

CalMatters reports that AB 617 would cover the cost of legal representation, investigative services, interpreters and translations, expert witness services, and supportive and rehabilitative services to individuals facing removal.

This legislation created strong mixed reactions. 

The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that there are an estimated 2.3 million undocumented immigrants in California. Leading opponents argue that this would come at a significant cost, especially when California faces a $23 billion deficit.

Supporters of AB 617 argue that providing legal representation to immigrants facing removal from the United States is a crucial step toward ensuring that everyone has access to justice. 

Call DeMaio, chairman of Reform California said this “bill is a slap in the face to California’s taxpayers.” 

“Not only is this offensive to taxpayers to have to pay for $45 million in legal bills for illegal immigrants — and possibly illegal immigrant violent felons, but it is offensive to treat non-citizens with the same or better benefits as citizens,” said DeMaio.

“For example, if a citizen got sued by the federal government for not paying taxes, they would never get a grant from their state government to hire a lawyer and fight the feds – but these illegal immigrants are,” DeMaio noted.

We will continue to update this story as AB 617 moves through the California State Legislature.