A California Chamber of Commerce-opposed bill that puts employers in a no-win situation between federal immigration enforcement and state enforcement was put on hold in the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week pending a review of the proposal’s fiscal impact.
AB 450 (Chiu; D-San Francisco) punishes employers—rather than providing tools and resources for employees—when federal immigration enforcement officials appear at the workplace regardless of whether the employer has violated the law.
The bill prohibits an employer from providing a federal immigration enforcement agent access to the business without a properly executed warrant and also prohibits the employer from providing the agent voluntary access to the employer’s employee records without a subpoena.
CalChamber and the large coalition opposing AB 450 are concerned that the cost of implementing the provisions of this bill will be significant.
The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and other state agencies will be subject to a number of costs for tasks such as legal analysis and determining the applicability of federal provisions; sending response teams to worksites where an immigration enforcement action is occurring; record keeping; and enforcement by the Labor Commissioner against public and private employers for noncompliance with the bill.
The coalition recognizes and values the important role immigrants play in California’s economy and in the workforce and, therefore, strongly supports comprehensive federal immigration reform that includes temporary foreign worker programs, border security and a path to legal status. The author and these organizations share the objective of protecting our employees upon whom we depend.
Harm to Employers
AB 450 has several provisions that could adversely affect an employer when an immigration enforcement action occurs at its place of employment. Significantly, it penalizes an employer for choosing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities, thereby denying the employer the right to determine the best course of action for its business under these difficult circumstances.
Believing its employment eligibility verification and recordkeeping practices are in full compliance with federal law, an employer may determine that cooperation with federal enforcement officials is its best course of action. Unfortunately, AB 450 forbids an employer from cooperating with federal authorities and instead requires the employer to demand “a properly executed judicial warrant.” Unknowing employees could inadvertently violate the provisions and put the employer at risk of significant penalties without the employer having violated any laws that harm employees.
An employer that cooperates with the enforcement authorities and provides consent for them to enter the workplace, instead of demanding a warrant, would be subject to significant penalties under AB 450 (no less than $10,000 and up to $25,000 for each violation), as well as an inspection by the Labor Commissioner.
No Meaningful Protection
While the intent of the bill is to protect the rights of workers, AB 450 offers no meaningful protection from deportation or helpful information to employees. Instead, the bill places employers who are not violating worker rights in serious legal jeopardy.
The bill does not differentiate between good and bad employers; instead, it assumes the employer has committed violations by requiring the employer to report to the Labor Commissioner any federal immigration enforcement action at its workplace so that the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement may investigate the employer for wage-and-hour violations.
There is not and should not be a nexus between immigration enforcement, and an inspection by the Labor Commissioner where no just cause is present.
Employers who follow federal law by properly verifying documentation of newly hired employees’ eligibility to work (by properly completing and executing a Form I-9) should not be punished by state law for employing them.
The provisions of AB 450 are overly punitive to the employer and assume noncompliance. An employer would be prohibited from exercising its discretion in how to best handle an enforcement action by federal immigration officials.
Instead of this overly punitive approach that leaves the employer nowhere to turn, an approach of outreach to and education of employers and employees would be more helpful.
The CalChamber is asking members to contact their Assembly representative and members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee to urge them to oppose AB 450.
An easy-to-edit sample letter is available at www.calchambervotes.com.