Asm. Mike A. Gipson (Courtesy photo)

AB 2169, authored by Assembly Member Mike A. Gipson, passed Assembly Public Safety Committee with unanimous bipartisan support. This bill seeks to help undo the harm that undocumented victims of exploitation experience when they are criminalized due to their abuse while being trafficked.

“In California, women and children suffer overwhelmingly from human trafficking, and a disproportionate number of them are undocumented,” said Assembly Member Mike A. Gipson. “Although since 2017, current law has provided a way for citizen survivors to clear their criminal history from acts they were forced to commit while they were victims, this does not extend to our undocumented brothers and sisters. Extending this provision to our undocumented brothers and sisters protects all victims of human trafficking, including the victims’ families. This effort aims to protect one of our most vulnerable populations, whose immigration status, with the threat of deportation, is used as leverage against them to continue to be abused. It is unconscionable to allow mothers, daughters, and families to continue being taken advantage of and left behind. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect our community. AB 2169 aims to ensure that all victims of human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence are protected from litigation, regardless of immigration status.”

In addition to its strong provisions, AB 2169 would allow all related charges against non-citizens connected with human trafficking to be vacated. This bill would increase would increase the ability of these victims to recover from the trauma of trafficking and gain self-sufficiency as they continue with their lives.

“The Immigrant Legal Resource Center is thrilled to partner with Assembly member Gipson and survivor advocates to work together to ensure that immigrants can derive full benefits from recent legislative reforms, protecting non-citizen survivors of trafficking, intimate partner, and sexual violence from the lifelong and immutable immigration consequences that can follow an illegal arrest or conviction,” said Rose Cahn, The Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

“The point of the vacatur laws is to help undo the harm that victims of exploitation experience when they are criminalized as a result of their abuse,” said Allison Gill Sanford, Freedom to Thrive. “Given this, it is paramount that we ensure there is no ambiguity in the law that could create unintended consequences for non-citizen victims. Unfortunately, the law as it now stands provides no such guarantee, which has created a functional problem where advocates advise non-citizen victims to steer clear of vacatur for fear of unintended consequences, whereas citizen victims can access vacatur relief. In effect, we have created a two-tier system that perversely treats non-citizen victims as less deserving of this remedy than their citizen counterparts. We must act to ensure that vacatur is available for every victim in the state and that the protections of vacatur are as robust for non-citizen victims and they are for citizen victims of human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and/or sexual violence.”

“Our state must ensure that victims of human trafficking have access to services and opportunities to cope with the trauma they have faced and with a path to turn a page,” said Joseph Villela, Loyola Law School, Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Policy Initiative. “This includes ensuring current vacatur relief is clear in it is intended to also apply to non-citizens. We thank Assemblymember Gipson for authoring this bill.”

AB 2169 will now advance to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.