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U.S. sues over California law that protects immigrants at work

We recently wrote about a new California state law that took effect on January 1 imposing new legal responsibilities on employers in certain immigration-related situations. To recap, the main provisions of the law require California employers to:

  • Only let federal immigration agents access nonpublic areas of work premises if they have valid judicial warrants, with some exception
  • Only let these agents review employee records if they show official court orders or subpoenas, with some exception
  • Provide posted 72-hour notices of certain federal immigration Form I-9 or similar inspections as well as furnish copies of certain related documents to employees on request
  • With some exceptions under federal law, refrain from re-verifying employment eligibility of employees

Federal suit against new law

Federal authorities filed a lawsuit on March 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California asking the court to invalidate this law and to issue a preliminary injunction preventing its enforcement pending the outcome of the suit. The U.S. alleges that the state law violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which basically says that federal laws trump and take precedence over state laws when they conflict.

California asked the court on March 13 to transfer the case to the Northern District of California, where the state has already sued the United States in connection with their dispute over sanctuary jurisdiction. The court denied the request to transfer. In its motion to transfer, California asserts its power pursuant to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution "to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public."

On March 22, the court gave California officials permission to depose (officially question) two federal immigration officials by April 13 to help it respond to the federal request for preliminary injunction of the law. The court is maintaining a page on its website linking to major documents in this case, which also challenges two additional state laws not focused on employers.

Get ongoing legal advice

California employers should seek legal guidance from an experienced employment lawyer about ongoing compliance responsibilities under the state law. Employer responsibilities may change as this federal lawsuit proceeds.

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