State and local leaders gathered at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in San Francisco on Friday to protest the sweeps of 77 Northern California businesses by federal agents this week who probed for proof of employees’ work authorizations.
The action was also organized to draw attention to a new law that prohibits employers from voluntarily allowing immigration officers to access or obtain employee records without a court-issued warrant or subpoena.
“We are here to say, ‘Do not quit your jobs. We will stand with you and we have protections here in the state of California for you,’” said state Assemblymember David Chiu, who authored AB 450, the Immigration Protection Act.
The legislation went into effect Jan. 1 and ensures that businesses and their employees are not subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures.
“If an employer receives notice of an audit, they are required to let their workers know to give notice to their workers and let them know what info they are providing to ICE,” said Chiu, adding that ICE agents are not necessarily required to provide employers with “a heads up.”
In regard to this week’s audits, Chiu said his office suspects that “paperwork was provided from these 77 employers.” In such circumstances, the Immigration Protection Act requires employers to notify their workforce about any ICE inquiries.
The law, he said, provides “space for workers and their managers to become aware of what’s happening.”
The peaceful rally drew representatives from various community groups and educational institutions, including the City College of San Francisco faculty union, AFT 2121, United Educators of San Francisco and members of the national Jewish social justice organization Bend the Arc Jewish Action.
AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly said he had come to be “a strong voice against these outrageous, repressive activities” and to support City College students who may be undocumented.
Former San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos was in attendance and called ICE “one of the major tools” of the Trump Administration to “disrupt our communities and attack immigrants.”
“To attack our businesses for hiring immigrants makes no sense whatsoever,” he said, adding that the intent is to cause “fear and hate.”
Avalos said that protest is one of the “biggest protections” against ICE raids in the community.
“It’s really important for businesses to know what their rights are and to know that they do not just need to lie down,” said Susan Lubeck, Bend the Arc’s national field director. “They should be very clear when a warrant is actually needed and to only comply to the extent necessary.”
Lubeck said her organization hoped to pass the message to the public to “make sure that none of these activities are happening under cover, invisible and in darkness.”