Fearing Immigration Crackdown, California AG Warns Employers to Follow State Laws

by | January 19, 2018

By Patrick McGreevy and Jazmine Ulloa

State officials on Thursday blasted the Trump administration over reports of an imminent immigration enforcement sweep of Northern California and said new state laws will make such action more difficult.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra warned employers he is prepared to seek fines if they violate a new state law that prohibits them from giving information on employees to federal authorities.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said Wednesday that a planned federal immigration sweep in the state appears to be in response to a new "sanctuary state" law that went into effect this year.

"Last week, California beat President Trump in a federal court battle over the future of the DACA program, and the Dreamers who continue to live here under its protection," De León said in a statement. "Now, he is lashing out."

News of the sweep plans, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, came after Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, spoke on Fox News this month and warned California "to hold on tight," saying his agency expected to increase its enforcement presence across the state.

Homan also suggested leaders of sanctuary cities, which limit collaboration between local and federal agencies on immigration, should be charged with violating federal smuggling laws.

Becerra said rumblings of possible sweeps compelled him to remind Californians there are new laws that restrict local law enforcement cooperation with federal agents and that bar businesses from allowing immigration officers to access or obtain employee records without a court order or subpoena.

"It's important, given these rumors out there, to let people and more specifically employers know that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws they subject themselves to actions by my office ... enforcing AB 450," he said at a news conference.

He said employers who violate the new law face fines of as much as $10,000.

The new law was written by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who noted it also requires that employers request and obtain a judicial warrant from immigration officials before allowing access to a private area of a work site.

"As we fight back against the anti-immigrant Trump regime, all Californians should know that state law is on their side," Chiu said Thursday.

Becerra said his office is preparing to issue guidance to local agencies about the new state immigration laws, while also seeking to communicate with federal officials about their intent. He acknowledged that the federal government has jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws, but said the new state law seeks to protect the privacy of workers.

Becerra said he has not been given advanced notice of any new federal raids and did not know ahead of time of enforcement actions recently at 7-Eleven stores.

(c)2018 the Los Angeles Times