Assembly Holds First Hearing on Bill Allowing All Californians to Serve on Boards and Commissions -- Regardless of Immigration Status

July 03, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA – On Tuesday, July 3, the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the California Inclusion Act (Senate Bill 174), introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), after the first public hearing on the bill.

SB 174 opens civil service on local and state boards and commissions to all Californians who meet the requirements to serve, regardless of immigration status.

California has thousands of state and local boards and commissions that advise on policy affecting the state’s diverse communities – including areas such as farm labor, Asian and Pacific Islander American affairs, California history, education, employment development, healthcare, children and families, parks and recreation, and the status of women and girls.

“Immigrants are one-third of California’s workforce, but when it comes to civic boards and commissions there’s a ‘not wanted’ sign,” said Senator Lara. “California’s sad history of excluding immigrants still prevents those with experience and qualifications from serving our state. The California Inclusion Act is a step toward integrating immigrants into our society and recognizing that we make better policy when we hear the voices of all.”

Many appointments to boards and commissions are unpaid, and SB 174 defers to federal law regarding paid work. For instance, immigrants with work authorization such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) could serve in a paid capacity.

SB 174 also amends obsolete and unconstitutional provisions adopted in 1872, during a time of exclusion and fear when California leaders pushed for laws targeting Chinese immigrants and others the law called “transient aliens.”

According to Government Code Section 241, a citizen of California is defined as anyone born in the state, except the children of “transient aliens and of alien public ministers and consuls.” The law passed nearly 150 years ago during a time of nativist backlash against immigrants in California that culminated in Congress passing the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.

SB 174 deletes the language about “transient aliens,” and does not change eligibility to hold elected office or vote, defined as a person over 18 who is both a resident of California and a citizen of the United States.

Section 241 has been amended only once, in 1971, to lower the age of eligibility for elected office from 21 to 18.

Assemblymembers Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco) are coauthors of SB 174.