What Can be Learned from the War on Sanctuary States?

Xavier Becerra

This post was last updated on October 4th, 2018 at 10:21 am

In March this year, the state of California was sued by the US Justice Department, over so-called “sanctuary” policies, which attempt to protect illegal immigrants against deportation.

On March 6, 2018, the lawsuit was filed in a court of the California state capital, Sacramento. It targeted the three state laws passed in 2017. The Justice Department asserted that the three laws violate the US Constitution.

However on July 9, 2018, a federal judge tossed out most of the lawsuit of Trump administration that tried to demolish a series of California immigration laws. This led to a major disappointment to the efforts of the Justice Department, which were meant to attack the so-called sanctuary states.

While dismissing the lawsuit of Trump’s administration, the U.S. District Judge John Mendez wrote, “The Court does not find any indication in the cited federal statutes that Congress intended for States to have no oversight over detention facilities operating within their borders.”

The Justice Department lawsuit referred to a provision of the U.S. Constitution, “Supremacy Clause”, under which federal laws defeat state laws.

The Justice Department filing informed that all three laws indirectly attempt to regulate federal immigration, at the state level. In order to temporarily block the state from enforcing the laws, the department also plans to seek a court order from a judge.

In October 2017, Jerry Brown, Governor of California, signed into law a bill, preventing police from questioning about immigration status and limiting law enforcement cooperation with immigration officers.

When sued by the Trump administration, the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, said that law enforcement in the state aims at public safety, rather than deportation. He also added that the legal arguments of the Trump administration are similar to its debates in other cases. He stated that his office is prepared to address such disputes.

Becerra said, “We’ve seen this ‘B’ rated movie before.”

Mendez tossed out the part of the lawsuit seeking to invalidate Senate Bill 54, which prevents state and local law enforcement from providing information to federal immigration officials, about when they expect to release an illegal immigrant from their custody.

He also dismissed another law, Assembly Bill 103, which allows the California attorney general to authority to inspect federal immigration detention centers. Besides, Assembly Bill 405, which sought to limit private employers’ cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, was also tossed out.

Ever since Donald Trump became the President last year and indicated to target a wider belt of people for deportation, the issue of illegal immigrants has become growingly intense.

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, took control over the Justice Department in February 2017. Since then, his top priority has been combating illegal immigration. One of the key parts of that effort involve a restriction on primarily Democrat-governed states and cities, which are claimed as “sanctuaries” by Sessions, protecting illegal immigrants from deportation.

As the federal judge threw out Trump administration’s lawsuit, Becerra said, “Today’s decision is a victory for our State’s ability to safeguard the privacy, safety, and constitutional rights of all of our people.

Though the Trump Administration may continue to attack a state like California and its ability to make its own laws, we will continue to protect our constitutional authority to protect our residents and the rule of law.”


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