California has done it again, setting a precedent that will likely have powerful negative consequences not only to those in the Golden State, but to everyone across the nation. Eager liberals everywhere will be quick to take up a new campaign: the topic is how illegal immigrants can sue and win millions. This story is made even more harmful because the attorney who was sued lost the case for a “crime” he committed before it was even made illegal!
“What I did was 100 percent legal at the time that I did it…”
Exploitation and Threats
I’m talking about José Arias, a Mexican farm worker in the Central Valley. Arias, an illegal immigrant, worked at the Angelo Dairy in Acampo during 1997. He claims that when he decided that he planned to go to work for a different farm, his employer threatened to call immigration services on the other farm and report them for hiring illegals, so the man stayed with the employer for nearly ten more years.
In 2007, Arias sued the employer for not offering overtime or lunch pay. Then he filed another suit, this time against his employer’s attorney, Anthony Raimondo, because the lawyer had the audacity to check with immigration to see if Arias was a legal resident, and offered his help to law enforecement should Arias prove to be in the country illegally.
Raimondo sent an email to ICE approximately ten weeks before Arias was due to go to court against his employer and provided a driver’s license he believed belonged to the former farm employee. He wrote: “I hope this helps. He [Arias] will be attending a deposition next week. If there is an interest in apprehending him, please let me know so that we can make the necessary arrangements.”
Raimondo was sued for unlawful retaliation under federal labor law, and Arias won $1 million. “All I ever did was tell the truth to law enforcement. Is that illegal?” Raimondo said. “I’m the only person in this case who didn’t break the law.”
In 2013, SB 666 was passed to cover employment retaliation, “which made attorneys in the state subject to suspension, disbarment or other discipline if they reported the immigration status of a witness, a party to a civil action, or his or her family members because the witness or party exercised a right related to employment.”
In case you missed it, the bill was passed six years after the attorney wrote the email to ICE regarding Arias. “What I did was 100 percent legal at the time that I did it,” Raimondo said. “If the law changes later, how does that impact what I did?”
Exactly. And to make matters worse, this man was able to sue and win a million bucks, all because someone inquired about his citizenship. He came to the country illegally, worked illegally, but got money because he was reported for his crime.
The 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Trott argued against Raimondo’s defense saying, “That’s expanding the definition of employer to make sure that there’s no loophole here, and you can’t just go get the mafia to threaten people.”
ICE is hardly the mafia. Granted, employers shouldn’t take advantage of their workers simply because they are undocumented. But neither should someone who broke the law by coming here and getting a job, presumably working under the table, have the right to sue for getting turned in for their illegal status.
Christopher Ho, an attorney at Legal Aid at Work, said, “the decision marks the first time an appeals court has ever ruled that an employer’s attorney can be held personally liable for retaliation against workers.”
The court decided Raimondo had shown a “pattern and practice” of contacting ICE regarding laborers who claimed foul against their employers. “The times when I have had litigants deported, I have always simply taken action rather than make any threats,” Raimondo said. “The attorneys find out when their clients are already gone.”
People who come here illegally and choose to work under the radar should fear being turned into ICE. While it’s true they should not be threatened into compliance because of their status, they shouldn’t be made to feel comfortable and entitled either. This newest court decision is just another in a long line of head-shaking decisions that is reshaping our country into something unrecognizable to most Americans.