California’s top law enforcement officer put businesses on notice that they face up to a $10,000 fine if they illegally share information about their employees with federal immigration officials.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued the warning Thursday at a news conference after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are preparing a major sweep in San Francisco and other Northern California cities in a strike against the sanctuary state. Officials hope to net about 1,500 undocumented immigrants, according to the report.
“Regardless of what the rumors are, the law is the law, the Constitution is the Constitution, and people have rights,” Becerra said.
Becerra called for “mutual respect” between state and federal authorities. He said he hoped federal officials would follow federal law and the Constitution, and would respect state law. And he alerted employers.
Under a new state law, “no one — but more specifically, employers — [can] voluntarily give up ... employees’ rights to privacy,” Becerra said. “If you do so, you are subjecting yourselves to fines — up to $10,000 for violations.”
He warned: “Ignorance of the law is no excuse if you violate it ... we will prosecute those who violate the law.”
Becerra called reports of possible raids by federal officials “rumors.” He said his office is “reaching out” to federal officials to learn more.
But Thomas Homan, the acting director of ICE, said on Fox News earlier this month that “California better hold on tight. ... If the politicians in California don’t want to protect their communities, then ICE will.”
“This Administration has continually put a target on the back of California,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told HuffPost in a statement Wednesday. “These broad brush raids will instill fear in immigrants who are terrified they will receive a midnight knock on the door and be deported or separated from their families.”
The state enacted two laws in 2017 to provide greater protection for immigrants in California. SB-54, known as the “sanctuary state” law, bars state and local law enforcement in most cases from using their resources, including equipment or personnel, to help with immigration enforcement. Personnel are also barred from asking residents about their immigration status and, in many cases, are barred from giving federal immigration officials access to people in custody.
AB-450, the Immigrant Labor Protection Act, deals specifically with the workplace. It bars employers from granting federal officials access to a workplace or employment records unless the authorities have a subpoena or warrant. Employers must also warn workers if their records are being reviewed by federal officials.
Becerra said guidelines are being prepared to help businesses understand what the law requires.
A showdown over undocumented immigrants between the state and the federal government would have major repercussions for California and its residents. Nearly a quarter of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. live in California.