‘We will prosecute’ employers who help immigration sweeps, California AG says

The state’s top cop issued a warning to California employers Thursday that businesses face legal repercussions, including fines up to $10,000, if they assist federal immigration authorities with a potential widespread immigration crackdown.

“It’s important, given these rumors that are out there, to let people know – more specifically today, employers – that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees or access to their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws, they subject themselves to actions by my office,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference. “We will prosecute those who violate the law.”

Becerra’s warning comes as fears spread of mass workplace raids following reports that immigration agents plan to target Northern California communities for deportations due in part to the state’s “sanctuary” law, which seeks to restrict local law enforcement agencies’ ability to cooperate with immigration authorities.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s acting director Thomas Homan told a Fox News host earlier this month that “California better hold on tight… If the politicians in California don’t want to protect their communities, then ICE will,” prompting a query from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to brief them on how raids are prioritized.

Becerra repeatedly referred to the reports as “rumors,” and said the state Department of Justice was not aware of planned sweeps targeting Northern California, in particular.

Becerra said the state Department of Justice and the state Labor Commissioner’s Office plan to issue formal guidance to all California employers, public and private, notifying them of their responsibilities under a new state law called the “Immigrant Worker Protection Act,” signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that took effect Jan. 1. It seeks to prevent all workers, regardless of immigration status, from being detained at workplaces.

Authored by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu, the bill:

▪ Requires employers to ask immigration agents for a warrant before granting access to a worksite.

▪ Prevents employers from voluntarily sharing confidential employee information without a subpoena.

▪ Requires employers to notify their workers before a federal audit of employee records.

▪ Gives the attorney general and labor commissioner exclusive authority to enforce new provisions of state labor laws.

▪ Prohibits employers from re-verifying information on employment verification forms, unless compelled to by federal law.

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