The Pushback Against Workplace Immigration Raids

As the Trump administration continues to advocate for more deportations of illegal immigrants, some state lawmakers are pushing back.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has zeroed in on workplaces in recent months, raiding nearly 100 7-Eleven stores on a single day in January in an attempt to root out illegal workers and delivering audit notices–which allow them to inspect employee records–to more than 75 worksites in Northern California last month. California has become one of the states leading the charge against ICE’s ramped-up approach, adopting legislation in the fall to protect the rights of workers who came to the country illegally, a population estimated to be about 2 million in the Golden State.

Earlier this week, state officials held a press conference to release additional guidance about the legislation, attempting to assuage fears of business owners that the new measure would put them in violation of federal law, according to the L.A. Times:

“Let me stress again, AB 450 is about privacy, constitutional rights and Californians at the workplace,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Becerra said at the news conference. “There is no conflict with what AB 450 requires and what federal laws require.”

The law in question, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, lays down guidelines for what employers can–and can’t–do if ICE comes knocking. Primarily, it prohibits private businesses from permitting federal agents on their property unless they have a warrant. If they do, employers have 72 hours to let their workers know if immigration agents are inspecting employee records.

Companies that don’t comply could pay the price: up to $5,000 for a first violation and up to $10,000 for subsequent violations.

California Assemblymember David Chiu, who authored the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, told the Sacramento Bee his legislation was an effort to counter raids in which “ICE agents are just barging into doors, flashing a badge and going into particularly the non-public spaces in workplaces–that is exactly the kind of activity we don’t want.”

Becerra’s office sent out a statewide advisory to all businesses Feb. 13 advising them of the tenets of the new law, and their responsibilities as employers. The move accompanies sweeping legislation that went into effect in January making California the nation’s largest sanctuary state–a designation that prohibits state and local authorities from asking about a person’s immigration status or participating in immigration investigations. Some have speculated that the sanctuary-state designation prompted ICE to target the state.

While California is the first to take such actions to protect workers, employers in that state are not the only ones in the sights of federal immigration officials. Homeland Security Investigations Acting Director Derek Benner told the Associated Press earlier this year that the agency is “gearing up for … large-scale compliance inspections” nationwide, emphasizing such audits will affect companies of all sizes and in all industries–a pledge that HR professionals will surely be paying close attention to as the year goes on.


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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected].