Assemblymember Bocanegra’s Legislation to Bring Equity for Immigrants Clears Committee

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Legislation Would Make Deportation Cases Such as Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, Jeanette Vizguerra More Difficult

(SACRAMENTO) – Today, Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra's (D-Pacoima) legislation to bring equity to our criminal justice laws, by ensuring that use of false immigration documents carries the same penalties as use of a fake driver’s license, passed the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee by a 5-2 vote.  AB 222 would amend Section 114 of the California Penal Code, a provision enacted in 1994 as part of Proposition 187, a largely unconstitutional attempt to fight the perceived ills of illegal immigration and punish undocumented immigrants in California.

“Today, if an underage college student uses a fake ID to purchase a six-pack of beer, he or she can be charged with a misdemeanor,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra. “However, if an immigrant is caught using that same fake ID, he or she is automatically charged with a felony and is subject to five years in prison.  This is fundamentally unfair.”

The measure will slow immigration officials' ability deport non-violent offenders, like Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who was deported and separated from her children for a felony conviction of possessing false documents to seek employment and provide for her family, a class of individuals that has been targeted by the Trump administration.  In Denver, Jeanette Vizguerra, who also had a similar conviction, took refuge at a church to avoid deportation after seeing what had transpired in the Garcia de Rayos case. 

Under California law, individuals convicted of using false documents to conceal one’s immigration status are convicted of a mandatory felony, punishable by five years in prison or a fine of $25,000.  In contrast, a felony conviction for assault with a handgun is punishable by two to four years in state prison.  A bomb threat is a misdemeanor.  AB 222 would amend the Penal Code to ensure that use of false documents to conceal one’s immigrations status carries the same weight as possessing a false or counterfeit driver's license, a crime which can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, subject to the District Attorney’s discretion.  Since the legislation amends Prop. 187, it will require a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

“Prop. 187 was an ill-intentioned, unconstitutional initiative that specifically targeted undocumented immigrants,” said Assemblymember Bocanegra.  “Unfortunately, our federal government has failed to learn from past mistakes in our history.  AB 222 reiterates the Legislature’s commitment to protecting California’s immigrant community.”

AB 222 now heads to the Appropriations Committee.