New bill Gives Workers New Protections Against Worksite Raids

Amid escalating reports of the Trump Administration’s indiscriminate raids on immigrants’ homes and heart-wrenching stories of parents being snatched away from their children, Assemblymember David Chiu (D San Francisco) was joined by workers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California and the California Labor Federation to unveil legislation that represents California’s latest and boldest challenge yet to Trump’s hateful agenda against immigrants.  AB 450 affirmatively protects workers from immigration enforcement through workplace raids, many of which unlawfully violate worker rights. For example, 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.

“Trump’s threats of massive deportations are spreading fear among California workers, families, and employers,” said Assemblymember 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.  I’m proud to author this legislation which goes beyond California’s existing defense of immigrants to offer new legal protections for individuals in our workplaces.  At the same time, AB 450 offers employers clarity about what to do when ICE agents target their places of business with indiscriminate raids.”

Already, California jurisdictions have made national headlines for refusing to support Immigration and Customs Enforcement efforts to round up otherwise lawful immigrants. The State Legislature is considering a bill, SB 54, to implement a statewide “sanctuary state” status.

“AB 450 is California’s latest and boldest challenge to the Trump deportation force that has mercilessly targeted immigrants despite their significant contributions to our communities and our economy,” said David Huerta SEIU USWW President.  “With this bill, our state can be proud to lead the nation with the strongest resistance efforts to protect workers not just in the community but in the workplace where hard-working people make California and our economy successful everyday.”

“Immigrant workers are living in a constant state of deep anxiety as the Trump Administration continues its threats to tear their families apart,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “No one should have to live in fear at work. Yet, every single day immigrant workers and their employers are faced with the threat of indiscriminate workplace raids that would harm families, disrupt business and weaken California’s economy. SB 450 sends a clear message that California is committed to protecting immigrant workers on the job.”

AB 450, sponsored by SEIU California and the California Labor Federation, opens up a new front in the fight against Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant agenda.  If passed, California would be the first state to affirmatively enhance individuals’ rights at work, writing tough new requirements into the law to protect workers from unlawful federal enforcement activity in California workplaces.  The bill would also offer assurance for employers who currently face uncertainty about their responsibilities when ICE agents appear for enforcement actions.

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.

As the Los Angeles Times has reported, reported ICE raids and Trump’s threats of mass deportation have sparked fear among employers as well as immigrant communities. 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. In fact, almost 1 in every 10 workers in California is undocumented.

“It’s important to support this bill especially when we need to report a work hazard during the heat season, said Joaquin Ayon, a United Farm Workers of America member and farmworker from Delano, CA who worked in the fields for 22 years.  “How many workers don’t report for fear of being deported? I’m pleased to know more laws like this would make us feel protected.”

“Unfortunately, we often see employers exploit workers based on their immigration status,” said Winifred Kao, Litigation Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “AB 450 takes key steps to prevent that abuse and sends an important message that we will not tolerate the exploitation of our immigrant communities.”

“As business owners, it is good for us to have clear procedures on what to do if ICE ever comes knocking at our door,” said Nati Ramirez of Don Ramon’s Restaurant.  “This new law will help us stand up for our employees who have helped make our business so successful.”

Key components 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 the Labor Commissioner and employee representative of a worksite raid. Employers must also notify the Labor Commissioner, employees, and employee representatives of an I-9 audit.
  • Preventing employers from retaliating against employees who report labor claims by enabling workers crucial to a labor claim investigation to receive certification from the Labor Commissioner. This certification would both protect the worker and aid in successfully adjudicating labor violations.

The Immigrant Worker Protection Act is co-authored by State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Rob Bonta (D-Oakland).

“Our immigrant neighbors should know that simply going to work to put food on the table is not going to expose them to deportation or ICE agents,” said Senator Wiener (D-San Francisco). “Children shouldn’t be fearful watching their mothers and fathers leave for work, not knowing if they are going to come home at the end of the day. These laws will help keep our immigrant communities more secure as they continue to go about living their lives peacefully and productively, and I’m proud to join Assemblymember Chiu as a co-author on this bill.”

“Immigrants are a vibrant part of California’s culture and economy,” said Assemblymember Ting. “As the president fosters fear and mistrust, we must fight back. All immigrants come to this country for a better life.  By protecting their rights, we preserve the many contributions they make to our great state.”

“Californians value justice,  compassion and keeping immigrant families together,” said Assemblymember Bonta. “AB 450 requires important safeguards be put in place to protect workers from being singled out and having their due process rights violated on the basis of their immigration status.”

Local leaders also voiced support. “It is essential that we defend our sanctuary policies,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed. “AB 450 would allow all workers, regardless of immigration status, to do their jobs free of fear and with full protections everyone should expect. The Trump Administration attempts to portray undocumented immigrants as a drag on our economy, but the truth is they contribute to our nation’s prosperity. This bill would ensure all California workers can continue to be productive, provide for their families and pursue their livelihoods.”

AB 450 is expected to be heard by Assembly policy committees in Sacramento in April.