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What Happens When Employers Threaten to Deport Their Employees?

Judging by how the Trump administration decided to start off 2018 in terms of immigration policy, it is going to be a long and challenging year for Members of Congress, law firms, and foreigners living in the United States. 

In mid-January, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided nearly 100 convenience stores around the country as they arrested 21 employees of 7-Eleven, a nationwide franchise owned by a Japanese American consortium. In California, Senate Bill 54 (SB54) went into effect on January 1st. This new law prohibits employers from allowing ICE agents to enter their workplaces without warrants. Furthermore, employers who act against the law could be subject to monetary fines and sanctions. 

As can be imagined, the new status of California as a “sanctuary state” has been highly controversial. Homeland Security has vowed to increase ICE raids around San Francisco, and there are even warnings by the Justice Department about potential criminal charges that could be filed against municipalities where law enforcement departments refuse to cooperate with ICE agents. 

In California, the state Labor Commissioner’s Office has reported a sharp increase in complaints from immigrant workers whose employers have threatened them with deportation. Although most of these complaints involve workers filing claims for unpaid wages, investigators in the Commissioner’s Office believe many cases involve political ideology, opposition to SB54, and even personal disputes.

In the Golden State, business owners and managers who threaten workers with deportation are effectively breaking a law that was presented in the Assembly during the days of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The underlying principle of the law is that unfair practices related to the immigration status of workers are prohibited and may also result in a $10,000 fine imposed on employers. In fact, law firms that assist business owners in digging up information about the immigration status of employees could face suspension from the California State Bar and even disbarment.

Even though SB54 is somewhat unique in terms of scope and application, immigrants who work in other states may also be protected by certain fair labor practices at the local and federal levels. Legal scholars who work for the National Employment Law Project urge foreigners who face discrimination, reprisal, and adverse action from their employers to get in touch with trusted San Diego immigration attorneys so their rights can be protected. In some cases, labor attorneys may need to get involved if other issues such as unpaid wages and unsafe working conditions are involved.

Business owners who willingly hire undocumented immigrants are likely to dangle deportation as a threat when issues such as workplace injuries, salary shortages, and whistleblowing arise. Immigrants need to keep in mind they have legal rights both as workers and as individuals.

From temporary employment immigration to citizenship services in San Diego, KS Visa Law is here to help. If you have any questions regarding immigration or would like to schedule an appointment, please call 858-874-0711 today.

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