SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Confronting “swirling rumors” of an upcoming immigration raid in the San Francisco Bay Area, California’s attorney general on Thursday called on businesses to abide by new sanctuary-state laws and protect their employees’ privacy.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that while he couldn’t confirm anonymous reports of a planned immigration sweep in the Golden State, he assumes Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will do their job “smartly” and by the U.S. Constitution.
“We would hope that just as California respects the Constitution and our laws, that our partners in the federal government would do the same,” Becerra said in a press conference.
Becerra, the son of Mexican immigrants, said the California Justice Department has received no word from ICE regarding any planned immigration operations in the state.
The press conference was sparked by a report in the San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday that said U.S. immigration officials were ramping up for a large-scale raid in San Francisco and other Northern California cities. Citing a source “familiar with the operation,” the report said the raid would be the largest immigration action under President Donald Trump and in response to California’s support for sanctuary cities.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed sweeping legislation this past October meant to counter Trump’s promise to ramp up deportations by providing protections to California’s millions of undocumented immigrants.
Effectively known as the “sanctuary state package,” the legislation limits state and local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE officials and creates safe zones for undocumented people around schools, courts and churches. New privacy laws also bar businesses from giving up their employees’ immigration statuses to ICE without a court order.
Becerra said the state is still preparing information and guidelines for employers about the laws which went into effect Jan. 1, but in the meantime violators could be fined up to $10,000 per infraction.
“Employers now have new obligations to ensure that they are not disclosing information about their employees in ways that would violate the new law,” Becerra added.
The Trump administration on several occasions has called the legislation a “threat to public safety,” and last week Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan told Fox News that the administration wouldn’t condone California being a “sanctuary state for illegal aliens.”
Becerra said the new laws are meant to protect Californians’ privacy and their ability to work without fear of deportation. He acknowledged the fear that California immigrants feel in light of the rumors but urged them to feel safe going to work.
“No one has a silver bullet and no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, but do tomorrow what you were going to do tomorrow,” Becerra said. “If you’re doing it the right way, if you’re obeying the laws of this state and you’re trying to do better for the state of California, then do what you’ve been doing.”
California, home to more undocumented immigrants than any other state, has already been targeted by federal immigration operations during the Trump administration’s first year.
Last week immigration agents entered several Northern California 7-Eleven stores, asking questions about employees’ immigration status. While no arrests were reported, ICE said the actions were a warning shot at employers.
“Today's actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” Homan said in a statement.
In a targeted operation on sanctuary cities and regions that deny ICE access to jails and prisons this past September, immigration officials arrested 128 people in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties. The operation, coined “Safe City", resulted in the arrests over 450 people nationwide.
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