Business & Economy

On Gov. Brown's desk: A bill to give employers cover in ICE raids

A 2015 ICE raid in Los Angeles.
A 2015 ICE raid in Los Angeles.
John Moore/Getty Images

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The state legislature has sent Governor Brown a bill that would require California employers to ask for a warrant when federal immigration agents show up for a workplace raid.

Employers have the right under federal law to request that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents produce a warrant before letting them in. But many are too intimidated to ask, said the author of AB 450, Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco).

He said California business owners have told him over the years they feared that if they asked for a warrant they would come off as confrontational, leading ICE to investigate them more aggressively later.

The proposed law would give business owners cover, said Chiu.

"Employers can point to our law when an ICE agent shows up on their doorstep to say they are required to ask," he said. "And this law would help them to force the Trump administration to do its homework and abide by constitutional legal standards."

Federal immigration agents are required to have warrants before they enter businesses (and subpoenas to inspect employee documents), but Chiu said in past years ICE did knock on doors without them.

"Our state has not had a good history with raids," he said. "In the past, ICE, and before that the [Immigration and Naturalization Service], would routinely violate constitutional rights and not provide these warrants as they are required to do under federal regulations."

Besides requiring employers to ask ICE for a warrant before allowing them inside their business, AB 450 would also obligate employers to ask for subpoenas before handing over personnel records, including I-9 forms used to verify an employee's eligibility to legally work in the U.S.

ICE agents currently obtain warrants before seeking to search or make arrests at businesses suspected of violating immigration law, a Department of Homeland Security official told KPCC.

The California Chamber of Commerce and several business organizations oppose Chiu's bill. In a statement, the chamber said the legislation would prevent employers from choosing how they want to cooperate with ICE, and it assumes employers are violating the law.

"An employer that is in full compliance with federal immigration laws and chooses to minimize disruption of business operations by federal officials by exercising their right to cooperate with federal enforcement officials will be penalized" by the bill's "steep penalties" of not less than $2,000 and up to $10,000, the statement said.

Chiu said the legislature passed his bill at an important moment, as immigrants who entered the country illegally wait to see if President Trump will follow through on his campaign promise to dramatically scale up hiring at ICE and increase deportations.