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Attorney General Lockyer's Civil Rights Legislation Sent to Governor

Friday, September 14, 2001
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(SACRAMENTO) – Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced today that the Legislature has approved a package of civil rights bills he sponsored to protect immigrants and others vulnerable to hate crimes, civil rights violations and consumer fraud. Almost one-third of all California residents are foreign-born, and 244 different languages are spoken in this state.

"We have one of the most diverse regions in the world, and we must protect our residents, and helpthem protect themselves,'' Lockyer said. "New immigrants, who come to this country seeking a better life are too often the victims of discrimination and exploitation. All California residents, regardless of their national origin, where they attend religious services, the color of their skin or the clothes they wear, deserve civil rights protections."

If signed into law, these bills will help stop crooks from preying on new immigrants.

The measures approved by the Legislature and sent to the governor were:

*AB 698 by Assemblyman Herb Wesson, D-Los Angeles, formally authorizing the Attorney General's Office of Immigrant Assistance, a program Lockyer created in March to educate new immigrants about workers' rights, civil rights and consumer protection laws. Under the current program, Department of Justice employees produce pamphlets in different languages explaining important laws. They also work with education, labor, grassroots and employer groups to ensure that new residents understand their rights and have increased trust in state and local government and law enforcement.

*AB 1312 by Assemblyman George Nakano, D-Torrance, establishing the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Anti-Hate Crime Program to help educate the state's API community about state hate crime laws. The bill provides $250,000 to the state Department of Justice to assist in educating Asian Pacific Islander communities on the impact of hate crimes, how to report them and the best way for communities to handle them.

*SB 1194 by Senator Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, strengthening sanctions against scam artists who pose as legal experts and prey on immigrant communities. SB 1194 authorizes courts to award penalties, actual damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and tax liability relief for victims in consumer fraud cases involving non-lawyers passing themselves off as legal experts. It also requires "immigration consultants'' to post a bond with the Secretary of State's Office.

*AB 587 by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh, D-Cudahy, increasing penalties that may be levied against those who violate state civil rights laws, providing an important deterrent to businesses that too often simply factor in the fines as a cost of doing business. The bill will authorize a $25,000 civil penalty for violating civil rights laws. It also will increase the amount of civil damages, from $1,000 to $4,000, that individual victims may seek under the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Gender Tax Repeal Act.

The Attorney General also supports legislation authored by Senator Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles. SB 257 requires school districts to include harassment and discrimination policies in their mandated school safety plans. It also requires schools to develop hate-crime reporting procedures as part of their plan.

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