david chiu Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
California State Assembly member David Chiu

California lawmakers seek protections in case of worksite raids

Immigrant Worker Protection Act described as challenge to Trump administration policy

California lawmakers are seeking to offer legislative protection to immigrant workers to challenge potential Trump administration worksite raids. 

Assembly Bill 450, also called the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, was unveiled last week by assembly member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, who described the effort as the “latest and boldest challenge yet to Trump’s hateful agenda against immigrants.”

The bill attempts to protect workers in the case of worksite enforcement actions, and “offers clarity” to employers who face uncertainty about their responsibilities when Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents appear at their workplace, Chiu said.

“Trump’s threats of massive deportations are spreading fear among California workers, families and employers,” said Chiu, the son of an immigrant and a former civil rights attorney, in a statement. “AB 450 declares California’s determination to protect our economy and the people who are working hard to contribute to our communities and raise their families in dignity.” 

Earlier this year, the White House pledged to broaden its focus on deporting undocumented immigrants, and called for an additional 10,000 ICE agents to expedite deportations. In California, an estimated one in 10 workers is believed to be undocumented, according to Chiu, including many in the restaurant industry.

AB 450, which is scheduled to come before the assembly committees in April, would require employers to ask for a judicial warrant before granting ICE agents access to a worksite.

Other key components include:

  • Preventing employers from sharing confidential employee information, such as Social Security numbers, without a subpoena. 
  • Requiring employers to notify the state labor commissioner and employee representatives of a worksite raid or I-9 audit.
  • Authorizing the state labor commissioner to access the place of employment during a worksite enforcement to provide affected employees with information.
  • Requiring employers to notify the labor commission before conducting a self-audit of employment eligibility forms, and grant the commissioner access to conduct an investigation.

Violators would face fines of between $10,000 to $25,000 for each violation.

Benjamin Ebbink, an attorney with the law firm Fisher Phillips in Sacramento, Calif., said the involvement of the labor commissioner may be in part to prevent employers from using a worker’s immigrant status as a form of retaliation in a labor dispute.

California is known for adopting trendsetting legislation, particularly regarding immigrant workers, he noted. It has a good chance of passage, but it’s unclear whether the governor would sign it.

The bill could draw employers into a conflict between protective state law and aggressive federal immigration enforcement, Ebbink said. 

“California is very protective of immigrant workers rights, and now we’re in a situation where the federal government may be very aggressive on immigration enforcement,” he said. “It really puts employers right in the middle, with the state government going one direction and the federal government going another.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout 

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