Federal agents this week ordered dozens of Northern California businesses to prove that their employees are authorized to work in the U.S., heightening tensions between state and federal officials over immigration policies.
Employers at 77 businesses were given three workdays to turn over records that show their employees are in compliance with federal law, said James Schwab, a spokesman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
No one was arrested during the operation, which was carried out Monday through Wednesday, but Schwab said employers who knowingly hired unauthorized workers could face criminal charges or fines.
He said workers found to be in the country illegally during the investigations will be subject to arrest and removal from the country.
Schwab would not identify the businesses, but said they represent a range of industries and include chains as well as mom-and-pops. Businesses in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and other cities were served with the audit notices.
The sweep is part of a crackdown that federal authorities said is focused on protecting jobs for U.S. citizens and "eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce."
But the move marks the latest instance of state and federal authorities clashing over California's newly minted sanctuary laws.
Becerra said that under the law, businesses are prohibited from voluntarily allowing immigration officers to access or obtain employee records without a court order or subpoena.