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New immigration laws

I heard about a new law that allows illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license. Can I use the new card as identity verification for Form I-9? Are there other new immigration laws I should know about?

There are several new immigration laws that employers need to be aware of, but the one everyone is talking about is AB 60, the new law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

The new law doesn’t take effect until 2015, unless the DMV director executes a declaration sooner than that. It requires that the DMV issue a driver’s license to an undocumented worker who can prove their identity, residency in California and who can meet all of the other licensing requirements, including the written and behind-the-wheel exam.

The card will only work in California and not for any federal purposes, and since the Form I-9 is a federal document, employees will not be able to use these new licenses to verify their identity on Form I-9.

What employers should be focusing on are the new laws affecting immigration and employment in 2014. There are new laws prohibiting employers from engaging in “unfair immigration-related practices,” with some pretty steep consequences.

If an immigrant employee complains about unfair wages or working conditions, employers may not retaliate by contacting or threatening to contact immigration officials against that employee or their family members. If you do, your business license could be revoked or suspended and the employee may sue you. You may also be guilty of criminal extortion.

Attorneys who similarly contact or threaten to contact immigration officials against parties or witnesses to a proceeding may be disbarred. Undocumented immigrants can now apply for professional licenses, too, including becoming a member of the state bar.

The reasoning behind the new laws against retaliation make sense. Illegal immigrants tend to be reluctant to complain about low pay or bad work conditions for fear of deportation.

Even law enforcement officials will be prohibited from turning people in to immigration services, unless they were arrested for a major felony or sex crime.

Obviously, these new laws represent significant changes and may continue to be hotly debated. Employers should be exceedingly cautious about discussing their personal views about any law, especially polarizing new laws such as these with employees, because of the risk that such a communication could be interpreted as discriminatory employment practices.

Mary Luros is a business law attorney with Hudson & Luros LLP in Napa, and can be reached at mary@hudsonluros.com. The information provided here is not legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship with the author. The author makes no representations as to the reliability or accuracy of the above information.