In the face of Donald Trump’s successful campaign, which relied heavily on undocumented immigrant issues, California has declared itself a “sanctuary state”. This essentially designates protections for undocumented immigrants – in addition to instructing local and state police to offer federal authorities limited cooperation on illegal immigrant issues.
In direct response to California’s Sanctuary State Laws, it has been reported by CNN that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has been ramping up raids on California businesses suspected of employing undocumented immigrants.
Unlike some states, California offers protection for all of it’s workers, regardless of immigrant status. It is estimated that around 9 percent of California’s workforce is comprised of undocumented workers – and that there are up to 2.6 million undocumented immigrants living in the state.
California has been developing a reputation for immigrant worker support for many years. Back in 2005, an employer refused to pay his undocumented employee workers compensation when they were injured on the job. He argued in court that he was not entitled to protections given his status. The Second District Court of Appeal of California ruled in favor of the immigrant, stating that his status was irrelevant.
Across America, undocumented immigrants face persecution from entities that aim to carry out their duties in spite of protections from the law. For example, Florida also offers their undocumented worker’s rights – however if they apply for benefits with a false identification (often due to their own fears or misconceptions about the laws protecting them) then they would be denied benefits and charged with fraud.
Even more explicit cases occur fairly frequently throughout the US. One example from Massachusetts, where an undocumented construction worker was detained by ICE after he broke his leg. In these situations, officials are quick to defend their actions as just and in accordance with the law – in spite of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the worker.
California law now goes so far as to say that employers cannot legally turn in their undocumented workers unless compelled to by federal law. Moreover, employers may not hand over employee records unless forced to by a court warrant or subpoena. In fact, employers may not allow federal enforcement agents to enter nonpublic areas at all, again without being legally compelled.
So although there is no doubt a long and tumultuous road facing undocumented immigrants, at least some states like California are fighting on their behalf. America was founded on the idea that anyone can come here and make a new life for themselves. It’s time we stop demonizing millions of people working towards their own piece of the American pie and instead offer them a path towards legitimate naturalization, rather than using them as a scapegoat for our own problems.