Faced with rumors of massive immigration attacks on the horizon in the Bay Area, California leaders are grappling with an awkward truth: there is not much you can do to prevent the federal authorities from taking energetic action.
But if large-scale sweeps of workplaces take place in the next few weeks – as immigrant communities fear after a report in the San Francisco Chronicle – it could be the first test of a new state law that limits the ability of immigration authorities to enter private companies without guarantees.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra acknowledged on Thursday that the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration, even when he told reporters he was willing to challenge any enforcement action that violated California law.
Becerra urged undocumented immigrants to continue their daily lives, and said he had no confirmation that raids were planned.
"Regardless of the rumors, the law is the law, the constitution is the constitution, and people have rights," he said. "We are prepared to challenge any federal immigration enforcement action that violates the constitutional rights of those living in the state of California."
A new tool that your office could use, said Becerra, is AB450, a state law that went into effect on January 1 and prohibits employers from allowing immigration officials to enter private areas of their places of employment. I work without a court order. It also prohibits employers from delivering immigration records of employees without court orders in some cases.
Previously, employers could choose to allow immigration agents to enter their businesses and detain employees, even without a court order. Employers who do now are subject to civil penalties of $ 2,000 to $ 10,000.
"The state has limitations on how they can regulate the immigration application, but it has the ability to regulate the behavior of the employer," said Michael Young, a The AB450 was overshadowed to a large extent by the most prominent bill in the "sanctuary status" that also happened last year, which limits cooperation between local and state law enforcement authorities and immigration authorities. In part because of that bill, it is unlikely that Bay Area police departments will help in future raids.
Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco and author of the workplace law, said his intention was "to do what we can at the state level to stop draconian raids in the workplace."
But the bill expressly states that employers should follow federal law, some observers say it could create more confusion. Angelo Paparelli, an immigration attorney from Los Angeles, wrote in an analysis of the law that "would be better to headline the & # 39; Get your immigration lawyer in the Law of Speed Dialing & # 39;" .
"It will cause a lot of confusion for employers about going the fine line between cooperating with immigration agents and refusing to cooperate," Paparelli said in an interview. He predicted that if there were major immigration raids in California, the new law would be quickly challenged in the courts.
Immigration agents have other tactics they could use to circumvent the law, Paparelli said. During the Bush administration, for example, authorities often met in workplaces with trucks labeled "Immigration and Customs Enforcement" as a tactic of intimidation. Some undocumented workers would try to flee, giving the agents probable cause to arrest them, even without a court order.
Meanwhile, if the state leaders wanted to fight directly against the federal government, there is another legal way they could take. Lucas Guttentag, a professor of immigration law at Stanford who previously served in the Department of Homeland Security, said the state or localities could legally argue that the Trump administration is selectively enforcing immigration laws in California.
"There is a real question if the federal government is retaliating against certain states or municipalities because of political opinions or legitimate laws in those jurisdictions," he said. "The government has to apply the law impartially."
Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, told Fox News this month that the agency will significantly intensify the application of immigration law in California after the passage of the sanctuary bill.
ICE Spokesman James Schwab declined on Wednesday to comment on reports of the upcoming raids, saying the agency does not disclose information about "future enforcement activities."
Homan suggested to Fox that the whites would be lawbreakers in the country but released by local jail officials instead of handed over to federal authorities, such as the defendant in the fatal shooting Kate Steinle 2015.
"What they have done is to force my officers to arrest dangerous criminals in their territory, in their homes and in their places instead of arresting them in the security and protection of a county jail," ICE director Neil Cavuto said. of Fox News on January 2. It is ridiculous application of the law to knowingly and intentionally put at risk. "
Democratic leaders in California have condemned the possibility of incursions. But if a sweep occurs, it could show the limits of the state's ability to resist the Trump administration.
"Local authorities can not enact immigration laws," said Sue Caro, Bay Area's regional vice president for the Republican Party state. "All they can do is try to stop it or get in their way."