Illegal immigration continues to be a hot issue in the United States, and California is often front and center of the debate. Of late, California employers are in the hot seat, torn between federal obligations and newly enacted state legislation that may be at odds.
Most recently, as reported by Fox News, the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned California employers that should they comply with federal law, they may be subject to charges. With regard to illegal or undocumented workers or other immigration violations, the employers cannot comply with federal obligations without inviting state trouble. The AG will use a newer California law to prosecute and punish them.
The new California law, known as the Immigration Worker Protection Act, prohibits authorities from detaining workers at their workplace. Also, federal authorities must have a warrant prior to searching a workplace. The report does not explain whether an employer’s consent to the search would negate the need for a warrant but implies otherwise.
Under this new California law, now employers also have a legal obligation to warn their workers before a federal audit of the workers’ records occurs. Under California’s existing sanctuary laws, there are already restraints on city police with regard to cooperating with federal authorities.
AG Becerra asserted that his Department of Justice and the state’s Labor Commission’s office maintain exclusive authority over immigration enforcement in California, not the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As such, Mr. Becerra noted that these state departments will provide the guidelines to California employers.
There is no report as to how the California AG’s office will protect well-intended employers if they commit a violation of federal law in an effort to conform to California’s contrary law, and vice versa.
California employers have a litany of rules to follow to ensure compliance with federal immigration requirements. Many assist their would-be employees with Visas, such as the EB-3 Visa, and other immigration-related hurdles. It is unclear how employers will fare in light of the dichotomy of requirements between state and federal law. Clearly, however, they will have to devote more time to digest the new demands to best protect themselves from prosecution.