Immigration is one of the major flashpoints in U.S. politics. Nowhere are opinions more divided over the policies and tactics that guide the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) than in the State of California.
Amid the rumors of the upcoming raids that would be conducted by ICE in San Francisco and other Northern Californian cities, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D-CA) threatened that employers that cooperated with immigration officials would be prosecuted if it was found that their actions violated California law.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, ICE hopes to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented people as a means of sending a message that immigration policy will be enforced in California. The operation targeting the sanctuary state is set to be the largest of its kind since Trump came to power. The president is reportedly keen to stamp his authority on immigration policy, having become annoyed by California’s sanctuary laws that have been designed to impede cooperation between the federal and local authorities.
Under California’s newly instated AB 450 and SB 54 laws, employers are under the obligation to keep the personal information of their employees private. It is also now deemed to be unlawful to allow immigration agents to enter a workplace unless they provide a judicial warrant. If they are found to have done this, Becerra reiterated that employers would be subject to fines ranging from $2,000 up to $5,000 for a first violation and $5,000 up to $10,000 for each subsequent violation.
Becerra, California’s first Latino Attorney General and the son of Mexican immigrants himself, is as staunch defender of immigrant rights. He has worked tirelessly to protect California polices that aid undocumented immigrants to get driving licenses and find legal aid to give them a level playing field when it comes to fighting deportation orders.
It seems like Becerra’s policies have widespread approval among the Californian population. The Attorney General won reelection in 2018 with an overwhelming majority of 77% of the vote.
The new laws are set to put employers in a tricky situation as they are forced to make a snap decision between complying with the demands of federal agents on their doorstep and the stipulations of California law. Although the laws are new, Becerra insisted that pleading ignorance of the laws would not be an adequate defense should court proceedings be initiated against employers who have been charged with violating them.