California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a Democratic-sponsored bill Tuesday that would have made the Golden state the first to allow legal immigrants who are not citizens to serve jury duty.
"Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship," Brown said in a brief veto message. "This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don't think that's right."
Brown's move comes after signing off on a series of bills that put California at the vanguard of expanding illegal immigrant rights at the state level, including measures that allow immigrants who come to the U.S. illegally to receive driver's licenses and noncitizens to monitor electoral polls.
The most prominent measure to become state law was the so-called Trust Act, designed to limit California's deportation rate by making the 48-hour hold and transfer to immigration authorities only applicable to immigrants who are charged or convicted with a serious or violent felony. Under the Secure Communities program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement can place a detainer on any individual in the prison system discovered to be in the country illegally.
Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, the bill's sponsor, lamented Brown's move. Noncitizens play a vital role in the community and benefit from the same laws that protect full citizens, he said.
"It is fair and just that they be asked to share in the obligation to do jury duty, just as they serve in our courts, schools, police departments and armed forces," Wieckowski said in a statement.
The decision comes two weeks after a Pew Research Center poll showed the total number of illegal immigrants in the country has been increasing as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.
Members of Congress have struggled so far to pass an immigration reform measure. A bill that would carve a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million illegal immigrants has been stuck in the House since passing through the Senate in June.
Corrected on : 10/09/13: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the California law pertains to illegal immigrants. It applies to legal immigrants who are not citizens.