While many immigration laws come from the federal government, states do have some freedom to grant or restrict 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 laws to that effect. There are, in fact, many laws in place in California that help protect 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. This law, the so-called “sanctuary state” law, prohibits most communications and cooperation between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement agencies. Its effect is to prevent federal authorities from stepping in to potential local immigration cases, and possibly holding or deporting individuals in custody.

Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act

The California Values Act builds upon the TRUTH Act, which provides for due process for individuals in local custody, whom are sought for interview by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency. It basically notifies the individual of their rights in general when dealing with ICE, including the right to turn down an interview with them.

Racial and Identity Profiling Act

Allows for collection of data regarding complaints about racial profiling, in an effort to decrease, and eventually end profiling. Citizens may file complaints if they feel they have been stopped by the police based on race, country of origin or other discriminatory factors listed in the law.

Immigrant Victims of Crime Act

Provides protection from deportation, and possible, eventual legal status, for individuals who are victims of crimes, and who will be assisting the prosecution case against their abusers. Those that qualify under the Act can receive a U Visa, but they need to qualify by being victims of specific crimes, including (but not limited to):

  • Domestic violence;
  • Hostage;
  • Slavery;
  • Prostitution;
  • Witness tampering; and
  • Other violent crimes against the person.

Most common victims of these crimes are individuals trafficked for sexual slavery or prostitution. The reasoning is that these individuals are more at risk and are in serious danger from those who will abuse them and take advantage of their power.

Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act

When ICE believes that local law enforcement are holding an individual who is in the country illegally, they may send a “detainer request,” asking that the individual be held when they would otherwise be free to go. At most, local law enforcement can hold the individual for 48 hours. The TRUST Act creates safeguards for individuals who are subject to this type of ICE involvement.

It also will ensure that low-level offenders, those that are facing misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges, will not be held for an excessively long time. Instead, the focus would be on holding individuals who have more serious offenses.

Other Protections for Immigrants in California

Below are some other ways in which California laws protect immigrants:

  1. 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.
  2. Employment Checks: California employers are subject to Federal laws, which require employers confirm employee work authorization status.
  3. 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 require employers to use E-Verify, California prohibits municipalities from passing ordinances that require private employers to use the system. Thus, while private employers may still use E-Verify, it is not mandated.
  4. Driver’s License Requirements: In order to obtain a California driver’s license, applicants must prove their legal presence in the United States with an official ID, such as a birth certificate or social security card. Thus illegal immigrants cannot obtain driver’s licenses in California.
  5. Public Benefits: Federal law prohibits immigrants from accessing public benefits, except for certain emergency services. However, California has made a number of programs available to immigrants, including ones related to healthcare.
  6. Education: In 2011, California passed the DREAM act allowing illegal immigrants access to the same in-state tuition rates offered to California citizens. In addition, the act allows illegal immigrant students to receive financial aid benefits.
  7. Voter ID Laws: New voters in California must provide identification information proving their citizenship, either when they register to vote or at polling locations. Thus, undocumented immigrants may not legally vote in California.
  8. Housing Ordinances: California law does not prohibit landlords from renting to illegal immigrants. Thus, there is no state obligation for landlords to check tenant citizenship status. However, some cities have passed ordinances prohibiting renting to illegal immigrants.

Should I Contact an Immigration Attorney for Help with California Immigration Law?

If you have a question about immigration law in general, or pertaining to any of the above information, specifically, in California, you should contact an immigration attorney near you to help you with your issue.