The recent efforts of California to provide some measure of protection for the undocumented workers and their families who reside and are employed in the state are currently being met with resistance from the Department of Justice, which filed a complaint against the state in the U.S. District Court in Sacramento on March 6th. The lawsuit was in response to three “sanctuary” laws passed in California in 2017, which the Justice Department alleges will obstruct the efforts of federal immigration officials to investigate the status of undocumented workers and further enforce federal immigration laws, creating a potentially harmful threat to the general safety of the public. 

Creating sanctuary through California Senate Bill 54

These recent events have led to the frequent reference of California as a “sanctuary state”, and the laws in question as “sanctuary laws”. But what is it that leads California, as well as other states throughout the country that have passed similar laws related to the protection of undocumented workers, to be considered a sanctuary for those individuals and their families?

The short answer when it comes to California, at least, lies in the protections offered by Senate Bill 54, which is considered to be the most widely inclusive variation of the sanctuary laws being passed elsewhere in the nation. According to Governor Jerry Brown, who signed the bill into law last October, Senate Bill 54 strives to offer a balance between the protection to the hardworking people throughout the state that do not have a status of legal residency, while still allowing state or local law enforcement agencies to target potentially dangerous criminals and work with federal officials in cases related to particular forms of criminal activity. 

Senate Bill 54 does, however, establish some significant limits regarding the investigative actions that can be undertaken by state or local law enforcement officials to determine the legal immigration status of someone arrested and in their custody, as well as prohibiting their reporting of that status to federal immigration officials unless that person has been convicted of one or more of the 800 criminal acts specified in the California Trust Act, which was signed into law by Governor Brown in 2013. 

Additional protection from assembly bills

Further protective measures for the vast number of undocumented workers residing in California is presently offered through two additional sanctuary state laws, which are included in the focus of the lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice. They offer the following protections:

●      Assembly Bill 103, which requires that any facility at which immigrants are being detained prior to a court date related to their immigration status or prior to deportation be reviewed by the California attorney general. 

●      Assembly Bill 450, which prohibits private business owners from voluntarily cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, either by allowing them to have access to an employee’s records without a warrant or subpoena and/or by giving them access to areas in their workplace that are considered nonpublic during a raid at that workplace. 

Sanctuary laws and your workplace

These laws are in place to protect the people who need and deserve to be protected in the workplace, regardless of their current immigration status. If you find yourself, your family, your friends or your coworkers facing harassment or discrimination related to the issues that are being addressed by the sanctuary laws in place in California, you may benefit from seeking experienced legal assistance. We offer free case evaluations and invite you to contact our office today to discuss the legal options that may be available to you or someone you care about.