Federal Court Supersedes California Immigration Laws

immigration lawsCalifornia immigration laws. When the Immigrant Worker Protection Act became law in January 2018, many hoped it would keep local immigrants safe from ICE agents and their workplace investigations. The feds have temporarily enjoined a number of the provisions in California’s law, however. So, where do things stand right now? A local labor and employment attorney might be worth consulting.

Assembly Bill 450

California’s bill, alternately referred to as AB 450 and the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, banned employers from cooperating with immigration agents in several ways:

  • Immigration enforcement agents were not be allowed access to areas of the facility that were not open to the public;
  • These agents were not allowed to obtain or view employee records;
  • Agents were unable to re-verify the Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form I-9), without a requirement by federal law.

Immigration Laws – New Federal Push

A new temporary injunction orders the state to stop impeding private business from cooperating with federal investigators looking into illegal immigration. The injunction prevents the state from putting restrictions on when and how employers can cooperate with ICE agents with regard to I-9 issues.

The impetus behind the federal push for relaxing state requirements on employers is based on the perceived “precarious situation” employers have been put in when crushed between state law and federal expectations. The federal intervention is designed to enhance cooperation between federal enforcement officers and business owners.

Additionally, the injunction was meant to address ambiguities within the California immigration laws, which do not provide a definition for who, exactly, is considered an immigration enforcement agent.  That has been problematic for employers who hire foreign nationals through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), since that agency approves applications only in conjunction with the employer’s agreement to cooperate with record-sharing and premises inspections.  Backing out of that promise could lead to a number of problems, including:

  • Reviving particular immigrations cases;
  • Prompting larger investigations;
  • Rescinding the USCIS approval for foreign nationals.

What Parts of California Immigration Laws Still Stand?

According to the federal decision, the notice obligation for California employers remains intact. Employees must be told of I-9 reviews or other inspections related to immigration status within 72 hours of notification from ICE.

Consequences for Employers with Documentation Improprieties

When I-9 forms are not properly completed, employers are subject to fines of up to $2,191 per infraction. Knowingly hiring workers who are not authorized to work in the country can mean a fine of $16,000 per incident. [Read more…]

Immigration Sweeps and California Employers

immigration sweepsCalifornia employers warned to steer clear of immigration sweeps. California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra has made it clear that employers are not to assist federal ICE agents with illegal immigrant roundups. If they do, he cautioned, they could face fines of as much as $10,000, along with other legal consequences.

Immigration sweeps – California Employers Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Employers in California have been caught in the middle of conflicting state and federal expectations. While Becerra promises prosecutions for violations of state laws, federal immigration agents continue to expect cooperation as they search for undocumented immigrants.  Current acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, has threatened that Californians need to hold on tight, asserting that federal agents are determined to protect local communities in spite of sanctuary laws. The battle between state and federal agencies puts employers in a tough spot when asked for information about and/or access to employees.

Immigration sweeps and California Immigrant Worker Protection Act

California’s governor signed the Immigrant Worker Protection Act into law in January of this year. It spells out the legal requirements of employers toward their workers, irrespective of their immigration status. Essentially, employers are not to assist in any activity that would result in an employee being detained while at work. The specifics of the bill spell out the employer expectations to:

  • Ask to see a warrant before giving ICE agents access to the site;
  • Not give out confidential employee information to ICE agents unless subpoenaed to do so;
  • Not re-verify information on employment forms without federal coercion.

Furthermore, the exclusive authority to enforce state labor laws has been given strictly to the state attorney general and the state labor commissioner, leaving federal authorities with no authority.

Immigration Sweeps – ICE Raids California Businesses

In the span of just five days, 122 businesses were swept up in the federal government’s clampdown on undocumented immigrants. Over 200 arrests took place in Southern California businesses. ICE agents explained that any alien found to be in violation of United States immigration laws was subject to deportation, regardless of other crimes, or the lack thereof.

Immigrations Sweeps – Be Prepared

California employers are urged to be ready for potential interactions with federal agents. Both supervisors and employees need to be aware of their obligations under the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, and should be instructed to ask agents for subpoenas or warrants when required by California law. Furthermore, employers should be prepared to address all pre- and post-inspection requirements. [Read more…]

Immigrant Workers: Protections Expanded in California

Immigrant WorkersImmigrant workers make up roughly one-third of California’s workforce, paying over $5 billion in state taxes each year. Even so, the political climate has undoubtedly been alarming of late, leaving many to feel vulnerable. Many people now worry about losing their homes, jobs, and families.  In these challenging times, understanding California labor law can bring a bit of comfort in the workplace. If you are an immigrant living and working in California, there are laws on the books to protect you. Let our experienced legal team fight on your behalf.

The Battle Against Immigrant Workers Wage Theft

In an effort to combat wage theft, Governor Brown signed SB 588 into law in 2015. Wage theft occurs when employers illegally withhold wages from an employee. It occurs in numerous ways:

  • Offering hourly rates below minimum wage;
  • Failing to pay overtime at the state and federal rates;
  • Compelling workers to put in time “off the clock.”

Research indicates that immigrant workers and low-wage earners tend to be disproportionately impacted by these actions because they are unaware of the laws or they fear losing their jobs if they complain.

SB 588 seeks to give workers greater protections and more leverage when they do file a claim.  Now, employers may face a levy on their business bank accounts or a lien on their property if they are found guilty of wage theft.

Offensive Language Eliminated

SB 432 took effect in January 2016, and it effectively removed the word “alien” from the California Labor Code. The elimination of the derogatory term was intended to recognize the value and contributions of immigrant communities in California.

Eliminating E-Verify Except for Federal Work

The Employment Acceleration Act of 2011 provides key protections to laborers.

California Section 2812 deals specifically with electronic employment verification, known as the e-verify system. It states that, except when required federally, employers may not require employees to use the e-verify system. The exceptions include:

  • When it is required in order to receive a government contract;
  • When required to apply for or maintain a business license:
  • When being penalized for violating other licensing laws.

Basically, this means that it is illegal for an employer to use the federal E-Verify system to check a worker’s authorization status except in the case of government work. This applies to both current and potential workers.

Professional Licensing Available to All Californians

SB 1159 allows all Californians the opportunity to become licensed in 40 different professions.  By allowing the use of either a social security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), the law essentially allows anyone in the state to obtain a license, irrespective of immigration status. [Read more…]


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