Ulises Guerrero remembers the day vividly. Feb. 7, 2008. His 3 p.m. shift had just started at Micro Solutions Enterprises, a Van Nuys factory that manufactured printer cartridges.
Guerrero, now 37, had been working there for five years and was a supervisor.
“We didn’t know who they were. We thought they were regular police,” said Guerrero, a native of Tijuana, Mexico.
Others also thought it was the police who had showed up after a rash of car thefts in the company’s parking lot the previous week.
Instead it was approximately 40 agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that descended upon the factory. They closed nearby streets, and rounded up the 200 employees from that shift.
“Three officers came over and told us to make a line, one for those with papers and another one for those without them,” Guerrero recalled.
ICE came to the factory looking for eight people with criminal backgrounds, including those suspected of using fake identifications. At the end of the raid, the agents detained 138 undocumented persons — Guerrero among them. They were handcuffed and paraded into buses that took them to the immigration detention center in downtown Los Angeles.
Guerrero was freed after paying a $1,500 fine. That spared him from having to wear an ankle monitor like other immigrants awaiting an immigration hearing, who couldn’t pay the fine.
But the arrest changed his life. He couldn’t work anymore. For several months he would go to the ICE offices on Monday, and an agent would come to his house on Friday.
The media attention to the raid was enormous. Activists and organizations provided those arrested with legal aid and support while they fought deportation cases. It was one of the biggest workplace raids in recent years.
Opposing Workplace Raids
The immigration raid at Micro Solutions Enterprises was the last major enforcement of its kind in California. But the Trump Administration has widened the immigration net, leading to more enforcement activities.
Last month, 188 undocu-mented immigrants were arrested across Southern California. So far, the immigra-tion enforcement effort has focused on sending agents to the homes of those in the country illegally, many of them with criminal records.
But activists — and many undocumented immigrants — worry that workplace raids may be next.
State Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) is trying to anticipate that action with his bill AB 450, also known as the Immigrant Worker Protection Act.
The Assembly recently approved the measure, which protects workers from immigration enforcement through disruptive workplace raids.
The bill is now in the Senate.
“In an environment of division and fear, California must continue to defend its workers, to guard its values, and to ensure that its laws protect all of our residents,” said Chiu, a son of immigrants and a former civil rights attorney. “AB 450 declares California’s determination to protect our economy and the people who are working hard to contribute to our communities and raise their families in dignity.”
David Huerta, SEIU USWW President, noted that “one in every 10 workers in California is an undocumented immigrant.”
“Immigrants pick our crops, prepare our meals, care for our children and elders, clean our buildings, and are woven into the fabric of our workplaces, our economy, and our lives,” Huerta said. “California must take every step it can to ensure that our workplaces do not become the site of illegal detention and wanton violations of workers’ rights.”
Specific provisions of AB 450 include:
• Protecting workers from being wrongfully detained in their workplace by requiring employers to ask for a judicial warrant before granting ICE access to a worksite.
• Preventing employers from sharing confidential employee information, such as a social security number, without a subpoena.
• Requiring employers to notify the Labor Commissioner and employee representative of a worksite raid. Employers must also notify the Labor Commissioner, employees, and employee representatives of an I-9 audit.
• Preventing employers from retaliating against employees who report labor claims by enabling workers crucial to a labor claim investigation to receive certification from the Labor Commissioner.
This certification would both protect the worker and aid in successfully adjudicating labor violations.
Fear in the Immigrant Community
The recent uptick in enforcement has stoked fear in the immigrant community
Guerrero is not immune to it. “We’re all scared with what’s happening,” he admits.
He supports AB 450 because he thinks workplace raids are unfair.
“It’s not like they catch you being a delinquent. When they (ICE) go some place, they take everybody (undocumented) that’s there, not just the person they’re looking for,” Guerrero said.
After litigating his case for eight years, his deportation order was finally rescinded in November 2016.
Guerrero is currently trying to arrange to apply to stay here legally through his wife of four years, Sandra Zamorano, who is a US citizen. They have two children.
His advice to those who may face an immigration raid is to go through the courts.
“The majority of us (caught in the Micro Solutions Enterprises raid) are still here. As long as you don’t sign a deportation order, we have the right to fight our case,” he said.
Guerrero also recommends to anyone who is undocumented to follow a straight path and not commit any crimes.
“Three of my co-workers who had committed crimes — some with DUIs — were deported the same day,” he recalled.
His wife agrees.
“I think AB 450 is a great idea,” Zamorano said. “Families are scared to go to work because of immigration. There are a lot of kids worried that their parents are not going to show up at home later.”
“It’s not like you’re committing a crime. You’re not a gang member or doing violence. They should be left alone (at work) because all they’re doing is providing for their families.”