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Calif. bill aims to protect immigrant customers

New legislation introduced this week would outlaw discrimination on the basis of citizenship, immigration status or language. But it would affect only how businesses serve customers, not employment.

Senate Bill 600 by Sen. Richard Pan from Sacramento is one of 10 new bills in a legislative package that seeks to boost the rights of an estimated 2.4 million immigrants illegally in the state.

The Pan bill would amend the Unruh Civil Rights Act to make it unlawful for businesses to discriminate against people on the basis of immigration status, citizenship or language. The act already bans discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status or sexual orientation.

Felipe Hernandez, a Senate fellow in Pan’s office who is working on the bill, emphasized that it would not apply to employment decisions. “We hope we can get the support of the business community, especially in Sacramento,” he said.

Senate Bill 600 would apply to businesses like hotels and restaurants, theaters, hospitals, barber and beauty shops, and other retail establishments. The bill is sponsored by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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