In summary

State Labor Commissioner Julie Su has delivered an edict to her staff: Do not allow federal immigration agents into your offices or meetings unless they have a warrant.

State Labor Commissioner Julie Su has delivered an edict to her staff: Do not allow federal immigration agents into your offices or meetings unless they have a warrant.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had tried on three occasions to get information about workers who had active claims against their employers, according to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. In two of those situations, federal agents tried to enter hearings where state labor representatives were meeting with workers over contentions they were underpaid or faced workplace retaliation.

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su.

According to Su’s office, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, attempts by ICE to enter meetings coincided with an increase in worker complaints about bosses who threatened them with deportation. The department has opened 58 immigration-based retaliation cases this year, up from 14 last year.

The presence of ICE agents could discourage workers from reporting issues at work, the commissioner told the Sacramento Bee. “What (the workers) say is ‘I don’t want to pursue my case anymore,’ ” Su said. “It’s our job to prevent retaliation, not assist in it.”

ICE would not acknowledge whether its agents have conducted investigations involving Su’s department. The Trump administration has promised a crackdown against immigrants who enter the United States illegally, contending they are responsible for job losses and increased crime.

Su joins several other state leaders who have warned ICE agents to stay away—including California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking that agents stay away from courthouses.

“There must real consequences for companies and their lawyers who violate California law,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, Democrat of San Diego. She promised to carry legislation to crack down on employees and their lawyers who call federal immigration agents to report workers.

“Retaliating against a worker for standing up for their rights on the job by putting their family at risk of being separated is completely against the values of our state. It’s unacceptable.”

 

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Elizabeth Aguilera

Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multimedia journalist who covers health and social services for CalMatters. She joined CalMatters in 2016 from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she...