Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced that it will target three California laws it argues interfere with federal immigration enforcement, thus filing a lawsuit in federal court against state officials. This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a vociferous defense of the administration’s legal challenge.
"There is no nullification; there is no secession," Sessions said in a speech in Sacramento at the convention of the California Peace Officers’ Association. "Federal law is the supreme law of the land. A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law and creates an open borders system.”
The three California laws in question include the following:
- SB 54 (California Values Act) – This law prevents local police from informing federal agencies about the release date of illegal aliens who are in their custody, or give them other “nonpublic” personal information other than the immigrant’s immigration status. Additionally, the law bans the transfer of those criminal immigrants to federal custody without a warrant from a judge for their arrest. The Trump administration contends that the restrictions on the ability of local law enforcement violate federal law, especially a provision which bars local and state governments from telling their officials not to disclose any personal information.
- AB 103 (The detention-review law) – This law regulates private prisons that detain undocumented immigrants. It allows the state attorney general to inspect the facilities, review the rights of the detainees, and withhold records of those actions from the federal government. Another provision prohibits the state and local governments from signing new contracts with private prisons to hold immigrants in detention or from extending existing contracts with those prisons once they expire. The lawsuit argues that it is a “law-enforcement decision” when it comes to where immigrants are detained, and California is improperly interfering with it.
- AB 450 (The workplace raid law) – This law prohibits private employers in California from allowing immigration agents to enter nonpublic areas of a workplace, unless agents possess a warrant or their entry is authorized by federal law. The federal government argues that test restrictions are designed to interfere with the enforcement of the federal prohibition on working without authorization.”
Under Trump, the department has brought a combination of political and financial pressures to thwart sanctuary cities, threatening to cut off federal law enforcement grants unless cities agree to identify and detain suspected immigration offenders. In January, the administration warned 23 so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, with subpoenas if they fail to provide documents to show whether local police officers are sharing information with federal immigration agencies.
In general, sanctuary city refers to a city or municipality that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. While some states, including California, have official policies which prevent law enforcement authorities from asking about the immigration status of residents, none of these policies prevent a police department from pursuing or arresting an illegal alien who commits a crime.
These California immigration laws are designed to make it harder for the federal government to use local governments as leverage in immigration enforcement. However, this does not thwart ICE from entering, or from arresting immigrants. So once those laws passed, ICE has to do several things the hard way, such as tracking immigrants down after they’ve been released from, as an example.
Ultimately, the fate of the suit will probably rest with the Supreme Court. So far the Trump administration has not fared well in federal courts in California in other cases concerning immigration.