When the immigration debate gets out of control, like when immigration restrictionists are in power in Washington, even U.S. businessmen and women can have their workspaces violated.
Those of us who live in Maricopa County, Arizona, experienced that affront. Sheriff Joe Arpaio conducted worksite raids as a propaganda tool to amass power and become feared, not only by poor undocumented workers but also by business owners.
I personally witnessed one of those raids. Arpaio went to a company, blocking adjacent streets, securing all building entrances with deputies, and perp-walking brown people, as if it were a SWAT operation to combat dangerous criminals. Of course, Arpaio’s narcissism was fed by the excessive display of force, all timed to be broadcast on the evening news.
Some members of Arizona’s business community valiantly tried to defend themselves, educating the population against anti-immigrant rhetoric and founding Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform. But let’s be honest, Arizona at that moment was in the “fog of war” against undocumented immigrants.
Real help was nowhere to be found, and few elected officials stood up against this invasion of private spaces. The issue was brought to the courts for years, and it remains a point of dispute.
California’s assembly is a very different entity.
Just a week ago, their assembly passed AB 450 – the Immigrant Worker Protection Act. It aims to allow California employers to ban immigration agents from entering a workplace or viewing their employees’ files without a subpoena or a warrant.
It is an iteration of the concept of “no warrant, no hold,” which some jurisdictions are proposing as a way to avoid handing individuals without felonies over to ICE or BP just to be deported.
AB 450 will now head to the State Senate.
This proposal also aims to prevent employers from retaliating against employees who report unfair labor conditions or engage in organizing activity protected by California law, regardless of immigration status.
According to this proposal, employers will be required to notify the Labor Commission and an employee representative of any worksite raid or an audit by ICE.
“Despite what President Trump says, immigrants – authorized and unauthorized – energize and sustain California’s economy with their labor. They are the muscle that drives some of our most important industries. They are an integral part of our prosperity. Protecting California’s economy from Trump’s ‘deportation force’ is a key reason California lawmakers should adopt SB 54 and AB 450,” wrote David Garcia, president of Service Employees International Union and a U.S. Army veteran, in an editorial piece published by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
AB 450 is a model proposal that can limit ICE activities on private property and curb the criminalization of immigrant workers acting as a shield against Trump’s deportation machine.