One of the benefits of United States citizenship is the right to sit on a jury. As the law currently stands, however, immigrants are not even entitled to a jury by his or her peers. Jury duty is currently restricted only to U.S. citizens.
This could all change soon in California. A bill that recently went through the California assembly allowing legal permanent residents to sit on juries is now waiting for the signature of Governor Jerry Brown.
This bill does have a number of critics. Opponents of the measure argue that there are in place a number of bills that place restrictions on what legal permanent residents may be allowed to do. Allowing for permanent immigrants to serve on juries to determine whether individuals did or did not break the law would be inconsistent with these other laws. On the other hand, supporters of the bill point out that the measure is intended to protect the person being tried. That is the person we must take into consideration when deciding who and who cannot serve on a jury.
It is estimated that 27 percent of California's population is now made up of individuals born in a foreign country. We are not likely to see that figure diminish in the near future. Yet with such a large percentage of individuals working and providing economic support to our state, many legislators do not see the need of protecting such a population.
When defending immigrants in court, attorneys already have an uphill battle. A conviction for a crime means more than a short prison sentence. It could mean deportation to a place where that individual's well-being will not be considered.
Source: Huffington Post, "California Bill Allowing Immigrants To Serve On Juries Stands Before Gov. Brown," Aug. 29, 2013