Among the most disturbing patterns emerging in the Trump era is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents stalking undocumented immigrants at courthouses, including targeting victims at a New York human trafficking court. The chief justices of the California Supreme Court, the Connecticut Supreme Court, the New Jersey Supreme Court, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court (so far) have all taken the extraordinary steps by condemning former Department of Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for the actions, with California’s Tani Cantil-Sakauye writing that “we encourage the vulnerable to come to our courthouses for help. But immigration arrests, or the fear of arrests at or near courthouses, disrupt court activities and the lives of those seeking justice.”
Federal immigration agents have shown up twice at California
dispute proceedings to apprehend undocumented workers, in what state officials believe may be cases of employer retaliation.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office, the state’s labor enforcement arm, said that since November U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at locations in Van Nuys and Santa Ana looking for workers who had brought claims against their employers.
In January, ICE also contacted a state official and asked for details about an ongoing investigation into labor violations at several construction sites across Los Angeles, according to Julie Su, the state’s labor commissioner and the agency’s head.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “generally the worker and employer are the only ones who know the [hearing schedule] information outside of the agency,” which most likely means that it’s the disgruntled employers who are illegally siccing ICE on workers who are reporting labor violations. And, much like Trump administration itself, these employers can use fear and abuse to their advantage, by sending the message to other employees that you will be deported if you even so much as think of reporting violations to the labor board. “This is consistent with what we have seen, where immigration agents have been going to places like courts,” said the ACLU’s Michael Kaufman. “ICE should not be used as a tool by employers to go after employees asserting their rights.”
It’s why California, home to over three million undocumented immigrants, is taking steps to freeze ICE out of the Labor Commissioner’s Office.