On October 5, 2013, California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. signed several pieces of immigration-related legislation that will benefit undocumented residents. The office of the Governor described the laws as designed to “enhance school, workplace and civil protections for California’s hardworking immigrants.” The Governor added that “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead, . . . I’m not waiting.”

Three of the new laws are discussed below:

SB 666: Suspension or revocation of business and professional licenses for immigration-based adverse employment action

SB 666 adds to the list of established grounds for a suspension or revocation of an employer’s business or professional license. Under SB 666, an employer may lose its business or professional license for retaliating or taking an adverse action against an employee, former employee or applicant on the basis of their citizenship and immigration status.

Under the new law, reporting or threatening to report an applicant’s or employee’s or former employee’s suspected citizenship or immigration status, or the suspected citizenship or immigration status of his or her family member, to a federal, state, or local agency because he or she is engaging in protected conduct, would constitute an adverse action for purposes of establishing a violation.

The law also prohibits an employer from retaliating or taking any adverse action against an employee, former employee or applicant for employment because he or she has engaged in conduct that the law deems to be protected. The law expands protected conduct to include a written or oral complaint by an employee that he or she is owed unpaid wages.

The law creates the right to institute a civil action and provides that it is not necessary to exhaust administrative remedies or procedures in order to bring such a civil action. Further, it entitles an employee who has been subject to an adverse action because he or she engaged in protected conduct to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and benefits. Employers found to be in violation of this law will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.

The text of the law can be found here.

AB 60: Driver’s License Eligibility

As signed into law, AB 60 allows individuals without legal immigration status to obtain a driver’s license. The law becomes effective on January 1, 2014.

Prior to enactment of AB 60, state law prohibited the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from issuing a driver’s license or identification card to a person who failed to submit proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. The law also required a driver’s license application to contain the applicant’s social security number or other identifiers determined to be appropriate for licensure.

The new law requires the DMV to issue a driver’s license to a person who is unable to submit proof of lawful presence in the U.S. or a social security number if he or she meets other qualifications for licensure, provides satisfactory proof to the DMV of his or her identity and California residency, and submits an affidavit attesting that he or she is both ineligible for a social security number and unable to submit satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the U.S. is authorized under federal law. However, the law does not authorize an individual to apply for, or be issued, a commercial driver’s license without submitting his or her social security number with his or her application.

Further, the new law prohibits discrimination against an individual because he or she holds or presents a license issued under these provisions. The law also prohibits the use of information related to an individual’s citizenship or immigration status as a basis for a criminal investigation, arrest or detention.

The DMV is expected to announce prior to January 2014 the documents to be used for identification by applicants who do not have social security numbers.

The text of the law can be found here.

AB 1024: Admission to the Practice of Law

AB 1024 authorizes the California Supreme Court to admit to the practice of law an applicant who is not lawfully present in the United States, upon certification by the examining committee that the applicant has fulfilled the requirements for admission to practice law.

This legislation was enacted in support of undocumented immigrants’ efforts to be admitted to the California State Bar as licensed attorneys. Specifically, in August 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice in an amicus brief opposed the proposed admission of an undocumented immigrant and law school graduate to the practice of law. In its brief, the DOJ stated that the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act prohibits undocumented immigrants from receiving certain public benefits, such as professional licenses, unless a state enactment states otherwise. AB 1024 was introduced as a legislative directive to allow applicants, who are not lawfully present in the U.S., to be admitted as an attorney at law.

AB 1024 deals only with admission to the practice of law and no other professional license. The text of the law can be found here.