Sep 8, 2017
California bill seeks protections against ICE raids

The Immigrant Worker Protection Act, a bill authored by California State Assembly member David Chiu, D-San Francisco, that “affirmatively protects workers from immigration enforcement through disruptive workplace raids,” passed the California Senate Appropriations Committee on Sept. 1.

AB 450 intends to protect workers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids by prohibiting employers from allowing immigration officials onto the work site without a search warrant.

AB 450 comes as arrests of immigrants with no criminal record have more than doubled in the first half of 2017, and many advocates for immigrants fear that worksite raids are next, said a news release from Chiu’s office.

“In an environment of division and fear, California must continue to defend its workers, to guard its values, and to ensure that its laws protect all of our residents,” said Chiu, a son of immigrants and a former civil rights attorney.  “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. At the same time, the bill offers employers clarity about what to do when ICE agents target their places of business with indiscriminate raids. I appreciate the strong support from my Assembly colleagues.”

California has not had a good history with worksite raids, the news release said. “Past raids occurred under the auspices of narrow individual arrest warrants that ICE used to question and detain every single worker at a worksite, including U.S. citizens and workers lawfully present – violating their basic constitutional rights.

“California has the chance to lead the nation and demonstrate that the answer to mindless hate and indiscriminate targeting of immigrants is respect for every individual’s legal rights and due process,” said David Huerta, SEIU USWW President. “By passing  AB 450 (Chiu), the Assembly stood up for fairness and the rule of law. This measure not only protects workers from unfair detention, it also helps workers know their rights and offers employers important clarity about appropriate action to take when ICE agents target their businesses with indiscriminate raids.

“One in every 10 workers in California is an undocumented immigrant. Immigrants pick our crops, prepare our meals, care for our children and elders, clean our buildings, and are woven into the fabric of our workplaces, our economy, and our lives. California must take every step it can to ensure that our workplaces do not become the site of illegal detention and wanton violations of workers’ rights.”

“Immigrant workers shouldn’t have to live in fear on the job,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “AB 450 builds on California’s proud tradition of protecting all workers. We look forward to its continued progress in the legislature.”

Specific provisions of AB 450 include:

  • Protecting workers from being wrongfully detained in their workplace by requiring employers to ask for a judicial warrant before granting ICE access to a worksite.
  • Preventing employers from sharing confidential employee information, such as a social security number, without a subpoena.
  • Requiring employers to notify employees both before an audit of employee records takes place and also providing the employee with results of those audits.

Nationwide, there are reports of ICE agents descending on worksites for mass roundups of immigrants.  The Trump administration has called for hiring 10,000 more ICE agents to expedite deportations. In California, workers have reported employers threatening to call immigration authorities when workers attempt to exercise their rights to minimum wages, meal breaks, or organizing activity that are protected by California law regardless of status.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, over 2.6 million undocumented immigrants reside in California. Undocumented workers make up 45 percent of California’s agricultural workforce and 21 percent of construction. Almost one in every 10 workers in California is undocumented.

The Immigrant Worker Protection Act is sponsored by SEIU California and the California Labor Federation and co-authored by State Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco and Assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego and Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles.

AB 450 now heads to the Senate Floor.

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