California Looks to Provide Legal Aid to Violent Illegal Aliens

( – Contrary to the opinion of some, illegal immigrants aren’t entitled to legal assistance at government expense for their immigration-related legal proceedings. Although the Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants a lawyer, actions surrounding a person’s immigration status are civil, so that provision doesn’t apply. Recent reports indicate that California is looking to provide legal aid to violent illegal aliens and others to bridge that gap in the courts and with other administrative matters.

In early February, California Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-District 57) introduced a measure (AB-2031) to change current state law guaranteeing access to legal services to some immigrants in the custody of the US Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) who currently reside in the state.

For those unfamiliar with the agency, the ORR is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services and oversees the stability, well-being, and health of unaccompanied children, refugees, and other eligible immigrants.

Short-titled the One California Program (OCP), the bill would revise a current statute that bars the use of grant funds to provide legal assistance and other related services to any of those individuals under ORR custody who have convictions or are currently appealing one for a serious or violent felony.

If the OCP passes, the section chief of the California Immigration Services Bureau (ISB) has until January 1, 2026, to establish a “voluntary guidance” to administer the grants. That official is also tasked with making recommendations to the ISB and state lawmakers regarding necessary updates to the bureau’s current policies and procedures “to ensure… indigent immigrant Californians receive [necessary] legal services” and access to other resources to establish residency in the state.

It remains unclear whether California lawmakers will pass the OCP. Presumably, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) would sign the measure into law, given his clearly stated positions on immigration and border security. On March 11, the chairman of the state’s Committee on the Judiciary re-referred the bill with amendments to the full committee. Likewise, the Committee on Human Services has been considering the measure since mid-February.

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