California has recently passed a number of new bills that would expand the rights of permanent noncitizens: allowing them to monitor polls during elections; making drivers licenses available to unauthorized immigrants; and allowing those who were brought illegally to the US to practice law. But the newly passed law that has proved most controversial in the state is one that would allow noncitizens to sit on juries, reports the New York Times. "What would be the next reform? Allowing noncitizens to vote?" wrote George Skelton in the LA Times last month, one of several newspaper editorials urging the state's governor not to sign the bill. "This issue isn't about discrimination. ... Nothing prevents a legal immigrant of whatever color from taking a course on Americanism and becoming a naturalized citizen."
But Bob Wieckowski, the Democratic assemblyman who sponsored the bill, counters that being a citizen doesn't make you a better juror. "You don’t release your prejudices or histories just because you take an oath of citizenship, and you don’t lose the ability to listen to testimony impartially just because you haven’t taken that oath either." Wieckowski says 15% of those summoned for jury duty never show up, and this measure will make impaneling juries easier. He believes Gov. Brown will sign the bill into law. "It’s the same thing that happened with gay marriage," he says, "people got past their initial prejudices and realized it was just discrimination." (Read more jury stories.)