A federal judge has stopped the enforcement of key portions of California’s Assembly Bill 450, including provisions of the law that prohibited employers from allowing federal immigration enforcement agents to enter their premises without a judicial warrant.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez issued a 60-page ruling Thursday in which he also declined to block enforcement of two other state immigration laws, including California’s “sanctuary state” law, which places limits on how much information state and local law enforcement can share with federal immigration authorities.

The U.S. Justice Department sued to stop California from enforcing the laws in question in March and only prevailed on AB 450. Judge Mendez wrote that a law that penalizes an employer solely because the employer “voluntarily consents to federal immigration enforcement’s entry into nonpublic areas of their place of business or access to their employment records impermissibly discriminates against those who choose to deal with the Federal Government.”

Key Points:

  • The judge’s ruling means that, for the time being, the State of California can no longer punish employers who voluntarily comply with federal immigration officials by allowing federal agents to enter their premises without a judicial warrant.
  • Judge Mendez also halted enforcement of a portion of AB 450 that prohibited employers from reverifying employment eligibility of employees unless required to do so by federal law.
  • The judge declined to enjoin a portion of AB 450 that requires employers to notify employees of any impending employment record inspections (e.g., I-9 inspections) within 72 hours of receiving notice of such an inspection.
  • Judge Mendez also declined to stop enforcement of Senate Bill 54, California’s sanctuary state law, which limits how much information state and local law enforcement can share with federal immigration authorities and prevents local authorities from detaining individuals for the purpose of transferring them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.
  • The judge also declined to stop enforcement of Assembly Bill 103, which directs the California attorney general’s office to investigate enforcement efforts of federal agents.

Background: The Justice Department’s lawsuit is part of a broader effort to prevent state and local authorities from hindering federal immigration enforcement efforts. Thursday’s ruling did not determine whether the laws themselves are legal under federal law and the U.S. Constitution, but rather only whether they should be enforced before the legal questions are settled on their merits. Both the Justice Department and the State of California will have the opportunity, should they so choose, to appeal the portions of Thursday’s ruling that went against them.

BAL Analysis: The ruling prevents California from enforcing key portions of AB 450. Employers should note, however, that AB 450’s notification requirement will remain in effect. Two other high-profile immigration laws will also remain in effect pending the outcome of appeals and additional litigation. BAL will continue following the litigation as it moves through the court system and will alert clients to any significant changes.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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