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Some Employers Using ICE as a Weapon

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there has been an uptick in the number of complaints received about employers threatening to report undocumented workers to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Beginning in 2014, California made it illegal for employers to report or threaten to report a worker’s immigration status. A recent lawsuit filed by the California Labor Commissioner provided an example of the prohibited conduct. A worker was hired to tile a bathroom and stucco the walls of a home for $150 a day. This worker was never paid. When he confronted the owner, he was called a “wetback” and was threatened with a report to immigration. The owner sent a text to the worker that included the following: “You want to come to my job & create a issue, I will handcuff you take you into custody & wait for I.C.E. to come take you for felony threats.” 

The change in political climate may have empowered employers to wield ICE more frequently in response to complaints. Employers have told the California commissioner’s staff that they would call ICE on their workers. One worker was informed that she could not take a sick day because “Undocumented people don’t get sick days.” Federal law protects workers irrespective of immigration status. According to ICE, it will generally not conduct workplace enforcement at a business under investigation by the U.S. Labor Department to discourage employers from using threats as a retaliatory tool. The California Labor Commission does not have a similar agreement and does not share information about claims from undocumented workers with ICE.