Assemblymember Rob Bonta appearing Tuesday
before the Assembly Public Safety Committtee.

An assembly bill that would increase training and resources for public defenders in order to represent undocumented immigrants passed its first step legislative step Tuesday. The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the bill authored by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta, 4-0.

It moves on for discussion at the Assembly Human Services Committee on Feb. 14.

“California’s values of inclusion, compassion and justice were on full display today at the State Capitol as AB 3 cleared its first legislative hurdle,” said Bonta. “AB 3 will provide additional training for public defenders and set up regional centers around the state to ensure immigrants have proper legal representation and unnecessary deportations are avoided. This is a key piece of California’s fight against the reckless and hate-fueled Trump agenda.”

The bill aims to use existing state resources to help public defenders. While they already do an excellent job, Bonta told the committee, “Immigration law is an area where they don’t have all of the nuances at their fingertips.” In turn, undocumented immigrants risk adverse consequences, including deportation and the potential break up of their families, he added. “It’s essential that we set up our public defenders for success.”

Assembly Bill 3 is part of a collection of legislation intended to form the base of opposition to some of President Donald Trump’s proposals and ant-immigrant comments made over the past year.

Tuesday’s hearing was brief and without any contention, but there could be concern further down the line over wording in the bill that excludes private defense attorneys. Assembly Public Safety Committee Chair Reggie Jones-Sawyer recounted running into the problem regarding a similar bill he authored. Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk, another member of the committee, also supported the bill.