Calif. Democrat pitches legal aid funding for illegal immigrants convicted of violent or serious felony

The Los Angeles Democrat, who was recently ousted as Chair of the Public Safety committee, wants California to help illegal immigrants convicted of serious charges.

Asm. Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D–Los Angeles) has proposed a bill to provide legal aid to illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a violent or serious felony. 

California defines violent and serious felonies to include murder, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, kindapping and other offenses. 


The big picture: Jones-Sawyer – who was recently removed as Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee – introduced Assembly Bill 2031 last month, also known as the Representation, Equity and Protections for All Immigrants Act. 

  • The bill would, in part, remove the prohibition in current law that does not allow the use of grant funds for legal services to an illegal immigrant who has been convicted of, or who is currently appealing a conviction of, a violent or serious felony. 

The backstory: California began giving grants to nonprofits to provide services to immigrants in 2015 through the One California Immigration Services Funding program. 

  • Nonprofits use the grant funding to provide legal services, such as representing illegal immigrants facing deportation and helping with applications for DACA, naturalization, asylum and other issues. 
  • Current law prevents One California Immigration Services Funding from being used to assist convicted felons. 

What we’re watching: AB 2031 will be heard by the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on Tuesday. 

What they’re saying: When Jones-Sawyer introduced the bill, he said in a statement that the current One California Immigration program has failed to match California’s commitment to equity by denying help to those convicted of a violent or serious felony. 

  • “For as long as I have been in state office, I have worked towards ensuring people are given a second chance and have championed efforts to prevent people from being treated as second-class individuals,” Jones-Sawyer said at the time. “The REP for All Immigrants Act ensures racial justice and truly equitable access to crucial immigration services for all – not some.”

The other side: Republican lawmakers blasted Jones-Sawyer’s proposal on Tuesday, with Asm. Kate Sanchcez (R–Trabuco Canyon) calling it unacceptable. 

  • Sanchez posted on X: “BAD BILL ALERT: CA Dems are pushing a bill for illegal immigrants convicted of violent felonies to receive taxpayer-funded legal aid & avoid deportation! AB 2031 is completely UNACCEPTABLE. Why do they want to prioritize immigrant rapists & murderers over everyone else??” 
  • Sanchez urged people to call their legislators to voice their opinion on AB 2031. 
  • Asm. Bill Essayli (R–Corona) echoed Sanchez and brought up the murder of University of Georgia Student Laken Riley, who was killed by a Venezuelan who was in the United States illegally. 
  • “Call your CA Assemblymember,” Essayli posted on X. “These are the exact policies that led to the murder of a nursing student in Georgia, Laken Riley.”
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