California Undocumented Workers have an Ally in the State



Davis, CA: With the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump mere weeks away, the fate of undocumented workers in California remains tenuous should Mr. Trump carry his campaign rhetoric forward to actual policy once installed in the Oval Office. Mr. Trump’s recent stance on the planned installation of a manufacturing plant in Mexico by Ford Motor Co. resulted in the cancellation of those plans when Trump hinted strongly that Ford would face massive taxation to bring Mexican-built cars across the border into the US.

Undocumented workers in the US have borne much the brunt of Trump’s pro-American position. This is especially troubling for California, given the large number of undocumented workers in the state and the importance they have to the California economy. California has already issued statements supporting its undocumented workers, and their value to the financial health of the state. However, the Trump Administration remains a looming threat if campaign promises are carried out.

That said, Kevin R. Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law and Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies, writing in The Sacramento Bee (11/27/16) muses that any attempt at a massive deportation of undocumented workers is fraught with obstacles.

With regard to President-elect Trump’s campaign promise to round up and deport two, to three million undocumented immigrants with a focus on criminals, there is some question as to whether that effort will be restricted to those guilty of major crimes, or encompass any undocumented worker arrested for even a minor infraction.

The Bee referenced research that suggests undocumented immigrants are, in fact more law-abiding in general than their US-born counterparts.

Workplace raids, akin to an effort undertaken during the George W. Bush Administration in 2008, could be tagged with claims of civil right violations against workers. That’s what happened when the Agriprocessors Inc. manufacturing facility located in Postville, Iowa was raided and nearly 400 immigrant workers were arrested.

There has also been talk, according to The Bee, of enacting legislation requiring all employers to make use of the E-Verify database, a federal effort towards employee verification that is strictly voluntary. There have been overtures from the Trump transition team that use of E-Verify could be made mandatory. The database, it has been reported, is error-prone. There have reportedly been some instances where workers have been discharged by their employer, even though they are legally entitled to work in the US.

Finally, muses Kevin R. Johnson, in comments appearing in The Bee, any end to the so-called “catch-and-release” detention process could result in California undocumented worker lawsuits. Currently, workers detained for lack of documentation are eligible for release by posting bond. Ending the practice of “bonding out” could ensnare a California undocumented worker in custody that could last for years, given the huge backlog of cases currently experienced by immigration courts.

Such a practice could increase the likelihood of undocumented worker lawsuits, the resolutions of which could take years.

In a perfect world, all workers would be documented. In reality, the state of California has thrown its support behind undocumented workers for their contributions to the state economy.

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