While numerous immigration laws come from the federal government, states have some freedom to give or refuse rights to immigrants. California has, for some time, been more liberal than many other U.S. states in its approach to immigration law and has passed a number of state immigration regulations to that effect.
There are, in fact, many regulations in place in California that help defend immigrants. This guide will help walk you through some of the pillars of California immigration law.
California Values Act
The most recently passed immigration-friendly law is the California Values Act, which became effective in California in January 2018. The so-called “sanctuary state” law forbids most contact and cooperation between local law enforcement and federal agencies. Its effect is to stop federal authorities from stepping into possible local immigration cases and perhaps holding or deporting people in custody.
Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act
The California Values Act builds upon the TRUTH Act, which provides due process for people in local custody who are sought for interview by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency. It notifies the person of their rights when dealing with ICE, including the privilege to turn down an interview with them.
Racial and Identity Profiling Act
Allows for the collection of data regarding racial profiling complaints to decrease and eventually end profiling. Citizens may file complaints if they feel the police have stopped them based on race, country of origin, or other discriminatory factors listed in the law.
Immigrant Victims of Crime Act
Protects from deportation and possible eventual legal status for people who are victims of crimes and who will be helping the prosecution case against their abusers. Those that qualify under the Act can obtain a U Visa, but they need to be eligible by being victims of specific crimes, including (but not limited to):
- Domestic violence;
- Witness tampering; and
- Other violent crimes against the person.
The most common victims of these crimes are individuals trafficked for sexual slavery or prostitution. The reason is that these people are more at risk and are in danger from those who will abuse them and take advantage of their power.
Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act
When ICE thinks that local law enforcement is holding an individual in the country illegally, they may send a “detainer request,” asking that the person be held when they would otherwise be free to go. At most, local law enforcement can hold the person for 48 hours. The TRUST Act creates safeguards for people subject to this type of ICE involvement.
It also will ensure that low-level offenders, who face misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges, will not be held for an excessively long time. Rather, the focus would be on keeping people with more serious offenses.
Other Protections for Immigrants in California
Below are some other ways in which California laws shield immigrants:
- Law Enforcement Checks: In California, police are not required to check a person’s citizenship status at traffic stops. However, police do have discretion to investigate if they suspect an individual is in the country illegally.
- Employment Checks: California employers are subject to federal laws, which demand employers to verify employee work authorization status.
- California E-Verify Law: E-Verify is an online system that helps employers determine the eligibility of applicants to work in the United States. While some states direct employers to use E-Verify, California forbids municipalities from passing ordinances that require private employers to use the system. Therefore, while private employers may still use E-Verify, it is not required.
- Driver’s License Requirements: To obtain a California driver’s license, applicants must establish their lawful presence in the United States with an official ID, such as a birth certificate or social security card. Therefore, illegal immigrants cannot acquire driver’s licenses in California.
- Public Benefits: Federal law restricts immigrants from accessing public benefits, except for certain emergency services. However, California has made several programs available to immigrants, including ones related to healthcare.
- Education: In 2011, California passed the DREAM Act, permitting illegal immigrants access to the same in-state tuition rates offered to California citizens. In addition, the act authorizes illegal immigrant students to obtain financial aid benefits.
- Voter ID Laws: New voters in California must supply identification information confirming their citizenship, either when they register to vote or at polling locations. Therefore, undocumented immigrants may not legally vote in California.
- Housing Ordinances: California law does not prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. Thus, landlords have no state obligation to check tenant citizenship status. Yet, some cities have passed ordinances banning renting to illegal immigrants.
What Does the Employment Eligibility Verification Process Involve?
Form I-9 is the primary document employers must submit to the government to verify an employee’s work eligibility. Employers are generally directed to complete a Form I-9 within three days of hiring a new worker.
The worker must usually deliver additional employee documentation to support the information that they state in the I-9 Form. This may include birth certificates, passports, and social security numbers. These records will help assure that the foreign employee has the legal privilege to work in the country.
The employer will then submit the finished Form I-9 to the proper employment or immigration agency. If the employer uses the E-Verify system, they can instantly check the info provided in the hard copy of the I-9 against electronic databases online.
If the info on the form does not match the computer database details, it may signal that the employee has engaged in document fraud. Immigration and employment authorities have begun implementing employment eligibility verification much more rigorously in the past decade. However, introducing the E-Verify system has also made the process much faster and more efficient.
What Is the “Good Faith Defense” for Employers?
If, as an employer, you have been accused of breaking employment eligibility verification regulations, you may be able to claim the good faith defense. According to this defense, an employer cannot be held responsible for document fraud if they have made a reasonable, good-faith effort to confirm the employee’s work eligibility status.
If the worker has supplied information on documents that appear to be accurate on their face, the employer is generally not required to investigate further.
Nevertheless, the employer should conduct a more comprehensive analysis if the worker provides false information or if they submit a document that is a forgery. Also, the employer should conduct a more profound investigation if the Form I-9 does not match the data contained in an E-Verify database.
Therefore, if the employer notices that an employment document is fraudulent yet does not explore it further, they cannot be said to have exercised “good faith” in the hiring process. On the other hand, if it appears that the records are valid and the employer does not conduct a further examination, they are acting reasonably. They can raise the good faith defense if necessary.
Should I Contact an Immigration Attorney for Help with California Immigration Law?
Suppose you have a question about immigration law or any of the above information, specifically in California. In that case, you should contact a California immigration attorney near you to help you with your issue.