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Attorney General Lockyer Establishes Office of Immigrant Assistance in California Department of Justice

Assembly Member Wesson Introduces Legislation to Support New Office
Friday, March 9, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(LOS ANGELES) – Citing California as the most diverse region in the world, Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced creation of the Office of Immigrant Assistance in the California Department of Justice.

"California is the most diverse region in the world with 244 different languages spoken here," Lockyer said. "Many new immigrant working families are contributing to this diversity. To help overcome language and cultural barriers that may contribute to immigrants becoming victims of discrimination and exploitation, I am establishing a new Office of Immigrant Assistance in my Civil Rights Section to help protect the rights of these California consumers and working families."

Although often victimized, many immigrants are reluctant to seek assistance from law enforcement agencies, such as the local police, sheriff or even the California Department of Justice. The new Office of Immigrant Assistance will provide education and outreach services to immigrant communities throughout the state. The office also will be able to direct complaints to appropriate law enforcement agencies and help immigrant communities to understand and use the legal system to seek redress.

"In America, nearly every family started out as immigrants," Lockyer said. "New immigrants have always been among the hardest working members of society and they continue to make enormous contributions to California in terms of energy, optimism and productivity. No matter when we entered this country, we all deserve justice. By creating this Office of Immigrant Assistance, I want to ensure that Californians who happen to be new immigrants have the benefit of protection under our laws and that there is truly ‘justice for all' in California."

Lockyer was joined by Los Angeles Assembly Member Herb Wesson, who is authoring legislation, AB 698, to ensure the continuation of the Office of Immigrant Assistance in the California Department of Justice.

"Everyone who lives in this state, regardless of his or her race, ethnicity or national origin is entitled to the same protection with respect to civil rights, consumer safety and protection against harassment and discrimination," Wesson said. "My legislation would ensure that the education, outreach and civil rights protections being put in place now by Attorney General Lockyer will remain available to help immigrants to California for years to come."

According to a recent University of Southern California study, 26 percent of California's residents are foreign-born. Like immigrants of the past, the new and emerging immigrant communities in California are enriching the state's culture, increasing our labor pool and helping to build our ever-changing and dynamic economy.

Lockyer said the focus of the Office of Immigrant Assistance is to ensure that foreign-born Californians are aware of the protections afforded them by the State's civil rights and consumer protection laws. As an example, the Attorney General provided a sample brochure that will be made available by the new office to help consumers avoid falling victim to fraud and abuse by immigration consultants who have charged thousands of dollars without providing promised services.

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