California would become the first state to allow non-citizens who are in the country legally to serve as jurors under a bill that cleared the Assembly on Thursday and heads to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
If signed into law, the legislation would make immigrants who are legal permanent residents eligible for jury duty.
It would not change other requirements for jurors, such as being at least 18 years old and having English proficiency. They also must live in the county making the summons.
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said AB1401 would help California widen the pool of prospective jurors and help integrate immigrants into their community. Immigrants already can serve in other roles in the courts system, including working as judges, he said.
"Immigrants are our friends, immigrants are our neighbors, immigrants are our co-workers and immigrants are our family members," Wieckowski said. "They are part of the fabric of our community."
The Assembly passed AB1401 on Thursday on a largely party-line vote of 41-26. Three Democrats —Assemblymen Ken Cooley of Rancho Cordova, Adam Gray of Merced and Rudy Salas of Bakersfield — joined Republicans in opposing the measure.
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, said during his floor comments that he does not see a shortage of potential jurors. He also said those accused of a crime have a right to a jury of peers who fully understand the country's laws and culture.
"I think that understanding only comes when an individual openly takes an oath to become a citizen of the country in which they live," Chavez said.