AB 450 and SB 54: California Expands Protection of Immigrant Workers through New Legislation

Governor Brown recently signed two bills protecting immigrants and immigrant workers in California.

AB 450, introduced by California Assembly member David Chiu of San Francisco, known as the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, will take effect in January 2018.  The law comes at a time when arrests of immigrants with no criminal record have more than doubled this year.

AB 450 focuses on protecting immigrant workers from immigration raids in the workplace.  It will add Sections 7285 et seq. to the California Government Code.

These new protections will prohibit employers from providing immigration agents access to the workplace, without first providing a judicial warrant.

The law will also prohibit employers from allowing immigration agents access to the employer’s employee records without a subpoena.  If an employer violates these sections it will be subject to a fine of $2,000-$5,000 on the first occasion, and $5,000-$10,000 for each occasion after the first.

AB 450 also adds Sections 90.2 and 1019.2 to the Labor Code.  These sections will require employers to notify employees before an immigration audit of employee records takes place, as well as provide the employees with results of such audits.

These sections will also prohibit employers from re-verifying the information on employment verification forms unless specifically compelled to by federal law.  Violations of these sections will result in fines, similar to those described above.

SB 54, introduced by President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon of Los Angeles, known as the “Sanctuary” bill and the “California Values Act,” will take effect in January 2018.

SB 54 places significant limitations on state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.  SB 54 will add Sections 7284 et seq. to the California Government Code.

These new protections will prohibit California law enforcement agencies from:

(1) Using agency or department moneys or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.  The law states this means agencies cannot:

a. inquire about an individual’s immigration status,
b. detain someone on the basis of a hold request,
c. provide information regarding a person’s release date unless it is public information,
d. provide personal information someone such as their home address or work address unless its public information,
e. participate in civil immigration arrests, or
f. perform the functions of an immigration officer.

(2) Placing peace officers under the supervision of federal agencies, or employing peace officers deputized as special federal officers or special federal deputies for purposes of immigration enforcement.

(3) Using immigration authorities as interpreters for law enforcement matters relating to individuals in agency or department custody.

(4) Transferring individuals to immigration authorities, unless authorized by a judicial warrant or judicial probable cause determination, or in accordance with Section 7282.5.  Section 7282.5 gives law enforcement discretion to cooperate if a person has been convicted of a number of specifically enumerated crimes.

(5) Providing office space exclusively dedicated for immigration authorities for use within a city or county law enforcement facility.

(6) Contracting with the federal government for use of California law enforcement agency facilities to house individuals as federal detainees, except pursuant to Chapter 17.8 (commencing with Section 7310).  This exception allows a city, county, city and county, or local law enforcement agency that, as of June 15, 2017, had an existing contract with the federal government or any federal agency to detain adult noncitizens or any accompanied or unaccompanied minor in the custody of or detained by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement or ICE, to renew or modify that contract as long as it does not expand the maximum number of contract beds that may be utilized to house these individuals.  For those jurisdictions that did not have such a contract as June 15, 2017, they are prohibited from entering into such a contract.

The law still allows California law enforcement to have discretion (under Gov’t Code section 7282.5) to cooperate with immigration enforcement under a broad set of circumstances.

Specifically, discretion to cooperate is allowed when an individual has been convicted of a “serious or violent felony,” or “felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison,” or when an individual is convicted within the past 5 years of a misdemeanor for a crime “punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony.”  The law also allows law enforcement to use discretion to cooperate with immigration enforcement when a person has been convicted within the last 15 years of a felony for a number of crimes, including “gang-related offenses,” “vandalism with prior offenses,” “use of threats,” “felony possession of a controlled substance,” “an offense committed while on bail,” etc.  (See Section 7282.5(a)(3) for a full list).

The law also does not, and cannot, stop federal immigration authorities from engaging in enforcement activities on its own in California.

In sum, these two new laws expand immigrant workers’ rights in California.  These protections are a testament to what is possible when workers organize and come together with their unions, communities and elected officials to demand better working and living conditions.  For more information, contact your immigration or labor counsel.

By Tiffany Crain Altamirano | November 6, 2017

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