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California threatens big fines for businesses that assist federal immigration agents

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California businesses could face fines for helping federal immigration agents. The threat of fines is in response to published reports that ICE could make more than 1,500 arrests in an immigration sweep in Northern California cities. (hafakot/Getty Images)

California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra is warning businesses that they could face fines of up to $10,000 if they assist federal officers during an expected immigration crackdown in the state, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Why did he say this?

Becerra made the comment Thursday in response to published reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could make more than 1,500 arrests during an immigration sweep in Northern California cities.

“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,” Becerra said in the report. “We will prosecute those who violate the law.”

The immigration sweep is expected to take place sometime over the next few weeks, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In part, the raids will crack down on “sanctuary cities." President Donald Trump has said the sanctuary cities undermine his efforts to clamp down on immigration.

During the operation, immigration enforcers are expected to visit workplaces suspected of illegally employing undocumented immigrants. California has a state “sanctuary” law that in part limits how local police can work with immigration authorities.

According to Becerra, the state Department of Justice and the state Labor Commissioner’s Office will be issuing “formal guidance” to all public and private employers’ regarding their responsibilities under the new Immigrant Worker Protection Act, The Sacramento Bee reported.

The law, signed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown, is designed to prevent “all workers, regardless of immigration status, from being detained at workplaces,” according to The Sacramento Bee.

He added that the state Department of Justice is not aware of any sweeps scheduled for Northern California.

What specifically does the new California law say?

Under the law, employers are required to:

▪ Ask immigration agents to produce a warrant before they can enter a workplace.

▪ Withhold confidential employee information without a subpoena.

▪ Notify employees about any upcoming federal audits of employee records.

Employers are also barred from “re-verifying” employment verification forms, unless it is required under federal law.

Finally, the attorney general and labor commissioner are given sole authority to enforce new labor laws, according to the report.

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