Ag Today February 13, 2018

California Employers in a Bind Over Immigration Enforcement

Statute requires employers to ask federal ICE agents for warrants or subpoenas before allowing them into private workplace areas

By Nour Malas
Updated Feb. 13, 2018 9:49 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES—After reports recently rippled across California’s agricultural heartland that immigration agents might audit farms, Bryan Little of the California Farm Bureau Federation sent an email alert to thousands of farmers warning them not to run afoul of a new state law governing their interactions with federal immigration officials.

The law requires California employers to ask immigration agents for warrants or subpoenas before allowing them access to private areas of the workplace or confidential employee records. Employers who break the law, which took effect in January, face fines of up to $10,000.

Businesses are increasingly caught between California and Washington as the state seeks to shield illegal immigrants from deportation, and the Trump administration intensifies enforcement. As the state works out how to enforce the law, employers say the new requirements are confusing.

“It’s just this conflict of intention: On the one hand the federal government is aiming for stringent enforcement, and the state wants to frustrate that,” said Mr. Little, director of employment policy at the farm bureau. “Our members find themselves stuck in the middle.”

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