Sanctuary Cities

Sanctuary Showdown: The Feds Sue California

The Justice Department wants to block three laws that it says hamper immigration enforcement.

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Jeff Sessions
JOE SKIPPER/REUTERS/Newscom

The Department of Justice is suing California to block the enforcement of state laws that it says impede the feds' efforts to expel illegal immigrants.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will formally announce the suit today at a law enforcement gathering in Sacramento. But the lawsuit itself was filed yesterday afternoon in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California.

The Justice Department seeks to block three new laws. The first, AB 450, is the oddest of the three. The Immigrant Worker Protection Act prohibits private businesses from voluntarily allowing immigration enforcers without warrants or subpoenas to review employee records or to enter non-public parts of their companies .

That is to say, the law tells businesses that they cannot let these feds wander around on their property and look through their stuff unless they have warrants. If they cooperate without demanding legal paperwork, business owners face thousands of dollars in fines from the state. It's a full-fledged "Everything not forbidden is compulsory" law: Either you're required to cooperate by the feds or you are forbidden from cooperating by the state.

You don't have to be a nativist to see problems with this. Indeed, you can be an open-borders libertarian like myself and believe that California has absurdly overstepped its bounds by telling private business owners who they may allow on their property and who may look over their records. Those are decisions the businesses should get to make, not state officials. AB 450 violates companies' property rights and associational rights.

That's not the argument the Justice Department is offering. It says the law violates the federal Supremacy Clause by serving as an obstacle to federal immigration enforcement. We'll have to see if California can get around that by pointing to its exemptions for warrants and subpoenas. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra insisted yesterday that the state is "doing nothing to intrude on the work of federal government to do immigration enforcement."

The second law, AB 103, imposes state-level inspections on federal detention facilities used to house immigrants for possible deportation. The law also attempts to give the state attorney general's office the authority to make sure the detainees' due process rights are respected. The law was passed in response to complaints of abuse or mistreatment in California-based immigrant detention centers. The feds' lawsuit argues that this law was passed only to investigate detention centers run by and for the feds to house immigrants, but not any other federal detention facilities. It calls AB 103 an "improper, significant intrusion into federal enforcement of immigration laws" and again a violation of the Supremacy Clause.

The third law, SB 54, the California Values Act, will probably get the most attention. This is the law that turned California into a "sanctuary state" by limiting the circumstances in which state and local law enforcement agencies can cooperate with immigration officials. As much as Sessions would love to commandeer local police into helping detain immigrants, the feds can't do that, any more than they can force local police to arrest people for federal drug offenses. If immigration enforcement is a concern of the federal government (as this lawsuit repeatedly insists), then it's up to the feds to enforce immigration law, not local police.

What so-called sanctuary cities (and states, in California's case) have been doing has been declining (in most cases) to share information about a person's immigration status with the federal government. When the feds send "detention orders" to local jails and state prisons, asking them to hang onto an inmate they believe is in America illegally, this is just a request. The federal government does not have the authority to require that local police detain him or hand him over.

But there is a federal law that prohibits states and cities from interfering or prohibiting communication between local law enforcement and the feds about a person's immigration status. The lawsuit argues that SB 54 impedes these communications. The California law does have exceptions in the cases of immigrants who have been convicted of many types of crimes, but the Justice Department lawsuit notes that the superseding federal regulation doesn't make these distinctions. It further notes that the list of crimes that permit information sharing under California law is narrower than the list of crimes that could get an immigrant deported.

It seems plausible that the first two laws could get struck down (and perhaps should get struck down) for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with federal immigration policies and enforcement. The challenge to SB 54 will be the one that other cities and states will be watching. A ruling could help determine what sort of immigrant-protecting policies cities and states are permitted to put into place.

To read the lawsuit, go here.

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83 responses to “Sanctuary Showdown: The Feds Sue California

  1. The Progs are really going to hate it when states do this against their interests.

    Sanctuary states for guns would be quite amusing, no?

    1. Yep. It’s equally as funny an overbearing federal gov’t intruding on their state level interests. I think eventually they’re gonna hate ditching the whole federalism thing….

    2. Except that we know Feds always seem to find the manpower they need to conduct ATF raids.

      1. -1 Branch Davidian Compound

    3. “The Progs are really going to hate it when states do this against their interests.”

      But Republicans refuse to fight back *in kind*. That’s why the the Left has gained power for a century.

      Flight 93 Election

  2. Is it too early to declare California to be in open rebellion?

    1. Seeing a lot of authoritarian tendencies from this supposedly libertarian site right now. Interesting how convenient that is.

      1. Convenient for what? Confirming your previous notions?

      2. “Seeing a lot of authoritarian tendencies from this supposedly libertarian site right now. Interesting how convenient that is.”

        The feds are within their constitutional authority, and CA is flagrantly brewing the law, and even worse are criminalizing private businesses that comply with federal law. Does this mean that you’re against the constitution?

        1. brewing the law”

          What the fuck???

          Is the law a lager or an ale?

          1. I would think a mead more than likely

          2. Breaking the law. Brewing would be an improvement.

    2. California’s only interested in being part of the USA if they are in charge.

    3. Their state militia must first seize federal armories or revenue cutters–the way Texas did when the Morrill tariff of Abominations was passed in 1861. There are a lot of naturalized voters in California, and resident aliens are allowed to make campaign contributions. The LP is the only party that wants to keep immigration, electricity and birth control safe and legal, NOT deport everyone over plant leaves or dates on forms. This is an opportunity if ever there was such a thing.

  3. “The suit, which administration lawyers filed late Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento”

    Why don’t they just go straight to the Supreme Court? Don’t the Supremes have original jurisdiction in cases where a state is a party?

  4. How does anyone with half a brain set up the debate as between “nativist” and “open borders”?

    I am the son of an immigrant father — who came here legally. I am not “nativist”, but neither am I “open borders” because I believe we have the right, indeed the duty and obligation, to control our borders and do all we can to prevent unlawful entry into our country. I apologize if that’s too complicated for you.

    1. I apologize if that’s too complicated for you.

      Apology accepted.

    2. I agree completely. America needs to liberalize immigration laws so that people emigrating here don’t do so illegally.

    3. Well, fortunately I didn’t present it as an either/or choice, did I?

    4. You got yours. Now make sure no one else gets theirs.

      Just because your father kowtowed to authority, everyone else should?

    5. and do all we can to prevent unlawful entry into our country. I apologize if that’s too complicated for you.

      Anyone who thinks in terms of “it’s the law, so it is correct” is simple minded. The laws are our attempts to codify some societal of right and wrong, they are in no way a right or wrong themselves and should not be confused as such. Doing so is effectively equating government decree with God’s.

  5. Indeed, you can be an open-borders libertarian like myself

    It’s easier just to type “cuck.”

    1. The worst part is that Scott put that in the fifth paragraph, so I had to read almost half the article before dismissing everything he said out of hand.

      1. He’s a crafty and inconsiderate cuck.

    2. And Reason’s descent into Breitbart Lite continues unabated

    3. ‘Indeed, you can be an open-borders libertarian like myself’

      Question for Scott: Do you open the door to your house for anyone who wants to come in? If not, why not?

      1. Question for you: Do you agree that the government should be able to tell you who you can and can’t allow into your home and work? If not, why not?

        1. Do you open your door to everyone who asks? Can I count on you to pay for my lawn man’s rehab when he falls out of a tree cuz I ain’t paying.

          1. Please answer the question. Because surely you recognize that the equivalence you made between a piece of private property and a national border is false. So, not I’m just curious why you believe I can’t hire my buddy who happens to be in El Salvadore to come work for me.

            As to your latter point, I’m assuming that you’re talking about paying health care costs for illegals, which sounds like a different issue from open-borders, as I don’t think you (or me) should have to pay for ANYONE’s health care costs other than my own and those of people I voluntarily agree to pay for.

            1. For one, are you paying your ‘friend’ from El Salvador the required legal minimum wage, providing health benefits, and doing the myriad of things an employer is legally obligated to do for an employee in the U.S.?

              Lets not pretend that skirting all of that bullshit is a reason, perhaps even the primary reason, to hire specifically illegal immigrant labor.

              Now, should those laws be updated, changed, or otherwise made to be ‘different’ as to admit more than our current 1 million legal immigrants per year? Maybe. I’m curious how many would also demand war with Libya to ‘respect’ the natural rights of their populations, but I already know Libertarianism sucks when it comes to real world international relations. It is by far one of the weakest points of the…movement? Party? Both?

              A world without borders is a world that won’t ever exist outside of the entire world being dominated by one world government. That’s just how it is, and people who believe otherwise seriously misapprehend humanity (in my opinion, obviously).

              1. Oh, I do want to say that I don’t really think the front door analogy of the OP is particularly useful though so on that I think we might agree.

              2. It is by far one of the weakest points of the…movement? Party? Both?

                I think “fashion statement” is the term you’re looking for.

        2. It all comes down to free association.

          If 3 people own a home, and 2 of them ‘vote’ to remove all of the doors and allow unrestricted access, they’ve violated the 3rd owner’s right to free association. . .
          The inverse is not true.

      2. Scott has at least read the Libertarian plank on immigration. If I were guarding that border half the commentariat–the dangerous, force-initiating socialist/fascist infiltrators–would not qualify to enter, per that plank.

  6. That is to say, the law tells businesses that they cannot let these feds wander around on their property and look through their stuff unless they have warrants. If they cooperate without demanding legal paperwork, business owners face thousands of dollars in fines from the state. It’s a full-fledged “Everything not forbidden is compulsory” law: Either you’re required to cooperate by the feds or you are forbidden from cooperating by the state.

    The law is the law, so if the businesses follow the law they won’t have anything to worry about.

    1. This law is by far the most outrageous. It is the state of California telling businesses that they must assert their constitutional rights or face punishment. Rights are by their nature individual. The right to demand a warrant is the business’s right not the state’s. If the State is allowed to dictate how the individual asserts their rights, then the individual no longer has any rights, the state does.

    2. The law is also a violation of the 1st Amendment. The State of California has no right to criminalize speech. This law makes taking to the federal government a crime. If it stands, the citizens of California no longer have a right to petition the federal government or interact with it without the state’s permission. That is totalitarian to its core.

    3. “I cannot tell a lie, Sturmbannfuehrer, there is a Jewish girl hiding in that attic in violation of Reich law. Go and do your duty, Amsterdam’s sanctuary city pretensions be damned!”–Immanuel Kant

      1. Hank, that is just the kind of intellectually dishonest, false equivalence I expect from a shitbird like you. I’m just surprised you didn’t somehow make it about abortion too.

  7. This is not a difficult case. The federal government has the exclusive power over immigration law. It properly exercised that power by telling state LEOs they have to turn over information about their arrestees immigration status to the feds. The state can’t now override that law in a field that is exclusively federal. It is really that simple.

    If the states can do that, then they can override any other federal law and the supremacy clause is meaningless. Remember, California isn’t arguing that the federal law is unconstitutional such that it can’t be applied to any state. They are claiming they can pass a law to ignore a federal law that is applicable to other states.


    1. They are claiming they can pass a law to ignore a federal law that is applicable to other states.

      I almost hope they win, but I think they’re in for a rude surprise if they do.


      1. The Immigrant Worker Protection Act prohibits private businesses from voluntarily allowing immigration enforcers without warrants or subpoenas to review employee records or to enter non-public parts of their companies .

        For what it’s worth, I would be happy to know that my employer isn’t going to give any of my information over the Federal government without a warrant. Of course, on the other hand I know that my employer is legally required to give information about me to the Federal government.

        So assuming that California is correct that the FedGov simply can’t review information in California from employers without a warrant, than how does this not render much of the FedGov’s taxation authority moot? I don’t think they’ve thought this through since they’re accidentally making Libertarian arguments without any of the liberty parts, which is impressive cognitive dissonance if nothing else.

    2. The Feds can’t *compel* the states to turn this information over – otherwise this would be moot. For example – if the Feds have a warrant the state isn’t trying to get in the way of its execution.

      They can *request it*. And any agency is free to refuse (or comply) with that request. At least they were.

      As I see it, the Feds don’t have standing here (again, NAL so don’t pay too much attention to this analysis) – no one is required to comply with their requests, they are suffering no harm. This is something that should, more properly, be brought up by the state agencies (really, the municipal agencies) and businesses that are now being told they can’t choose to comply with a Federal request – which is one of the rights they have.

      I mean, I’m open borders as feth and certainly don’t want these people complying voluntarily – but I can’t support a mandate preventing them from doing so if they choose to.

      1. They are claiming they can pass a law to ignore a federal law that is applicable to other states.

        They aren’t doing that. Nothing in these bills prevents the Feds from exercising their already existing authority to compel cooperation. These bills are just taking away the freedom of municipal agencies and businesses to exercise their right to cooperate voluntarily in the cases where the Feds haven’t (or won’t bother to) do the necessary groundwork coerce cooperation legally.

        No law enforcement agency is *required* to honor a hold request. No law enforcement agency is *required* to report immigration crimes. No one is *required* to provide information to law enforcement on a simply request.

        What this does is take away the ability to say ‘yes’ to these requests.

  8. The first two laws are just ridiculous. I would be sympathetic to a law that somehow managed to eviscerate the 3rd party doctrine, but the idea that I can’t report a federal crime to a federal LEO is plainly nuts.

    The last law I dunno about. Is it a 1st amendment case, or do local LEOs derive their authority (and access to criminal databases) from the State? If so, is not ok for the State to set restrictions on what can be done with criminal data that belongs to the State? Or is this just another bonkers example of telling a citizen that he can’t report a federal crime to a federal LEO?

    1. It is a supremacy clause issue. The state can’t limit how the feds regulate immigration.

      1. They are not doing that though. They are limiting how the *state* cooperates with Federal immigration enforcement. And no state is required to cooperate – only to not interfere.

        1. All of this was settled by the Supreme Court long ago! Look up Dred Scott…

        2. All of this was settled by the Supreme Court long ago! Look up Dred Scott…

    2. Honestly asking, but why is it ridiculous to have inspections set for detention centers to make sure conditions are humane? There have been MANY reports of abuse and frankly embarrassing standards for what’s supposed to be a first-world country. I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be deported, but I think treating people with basic human dignity is probably something we can all get behind, no?

      I could understand arguing for a different way to tackle the problem, or a different chain of oversight, but it is a problem.


      1. Honestly asking, but why is it ridiculous to have inspections set for detention centers to make sure conditions are humane?

        That’s not the argument. The argument is that a state can’t do that to a federal installation. If you want that type of law to achieve that type of end, you’ve done it backwards in this instance.

      2. State detention center – no problem.

        Federal one – where does the state get the authority to do that.

        Sure, I agree that inspections by an outside agency are good – the state doesn’t, as far as I know, have the authority to enforce those inspections on Federal facilities.

        The good thing though is that the vast majority of Federal immigration detention facilities are actually the local jails and prisons – which do fall under state control.

      3. I have never seen an immigration detention half as filthy and inhumane as the Dallas city jail. Then again, immigration cases are basically political prisoners. Most would rather be in home countries unbombed by US aircraft and unruined by US prohibition and asset forfeiture laws. Remember The Great Depression? After Congress made light beer a felony? Making plant leaves a felony by bribing foreign politicians to send out death squad enforcers has that same effect everywhere else in the world. People come to These States because, thanks to Congressional meddling abroad, they have nowhere else they can go. A Collaborator is one who helps a force-initiating government coerce the helpless and innocent.

  9. Suggested alt text*: “Oh Mr. Magoo you’ve done it again!”

    *How dare I try to top the master!*

  10. “The Immigrant Worker Protection Act prohibits private businesses from voluntarily allowing immigration enforcers without warrants or subpoenas to review employee records or to enter non-public parts of their companies .”

    It also requires employers to warn employees if such records are accessed with a warrant or subpoena. This, at least in the context of financial institutions, would violate a federal law designed to prohibit tipping off the targets of investigations.

    1. The list of laws and civil rights that law violates seems to be endless.

  11. Well, looks like Governer Moonbeam is aware that his state is in rebellion.

    California Gov. on DOJ Lawsuit: This Is An Act of War

    “You called this an act of war from the federal government,” a reporter began asking Brown.

    Brown seemed to be confused by the reporter’s quote.

    “An act of war? That’s pretty strong. But I reincorporate that comment,” Brown responded.

    The reporter concluded his question by asking whether California would retaliate against the federal government.

    “No, we are state of laws,” Brown answered. “We want to observe the law now. The [U.S.] attorney general has basically thrown the gauntlet down and done it in a highly politicized way.”

    “Yeah, this is a very aggressive act on the part of the Trump administration, and it’s not right, and it won’t stand. And as I say, I’m sure this lawsuit will last has more longevity than the Trump administration itself,” Brown concluded.

    Either he’s expecting the lawsuit to really, really drag out, or he’s drinking the Trump being ousted by Mueller koolaid.

    1. He figures they can get a hack judge to rule for them and by the time it gets to the Supreme Court to be overturned, he will be out of office.

      1. This. Moonbeam knows he’s gone soon, so why give fucks when you can just position yourself for Federal office?

        1. You’re joking, right? He’s older than dirt. He’s not positioning himself for federal office, just not spending his remaining years being harassed by the left.

          1. Think about what you just said. Too old for Federal Office? No such thing if you take a look at Congress and the Senate.

            Of course, he might not want to run for those offices but a lot of people assumed he wouldn’t run for Governor of California again either. It seems people get a taste for telling others how to live their lives, and giving that up and becoming one of those people who are being told how to live doesn’t sit well with them.

            1. He’s 79 right now. He’ll be 80 when his term is up in 2019, so you’d be talking about running for federal office in 2020, when he’d be 81.

              That’s older than dirt. Yes, there ARE members of Congress who are older than that. 3 in the House, 8 in the Senate.

              A fair number of them show indications of being senile.

              But I guess you’re right, it’s not out of the question. People who stay in politics to that extreme age are pretty invested in being politicians.


  12. The feds’ lawsuit argues that this law was passed only to investigate detention centers run by and for the feds to house immigrants, but not any other federal detention facilities.

    Umm…yeah. I don’t think States are empowered to do much with Federal facilities.

    Do we all recall, though, how after 9/11 the government claimed that a lack of communication among law enforcement agencies both local and federal directly facilitated the attacks? If you take their word about that, it seems what California is doing is mandating that law enforcement agencies don’t talk to one another. Gee wiz, it’s almost like they want terrorist bombings in California!

    Of course, I don’t assume that justification holds much water but in retrospect it can definitely appear that way.

    1. Illegal immigrants do not equal terrorists. What a dangerous and short-sighted thing to say.

      1. *facepalm*

        I’m not making that argument, I’m saying that by taking the government at it’s word that would be a rational assumption. Meaning that we shouldn’t take the government at it’s word since it leads to an irrational end.

        I could have been more obvious, I suppose.

      2. Those immigrants were legal as light beer in their own countries before Congressional Eugenics Enforcers sent the Gestapo there for anthropometrics, pissing in a dixie cup, getting arm tattoos (or equivalent branding by rights-violating laws against production and trade). Most of the dispossessed in places like Colombia are being herded into ghettos because Senators and pseudoscience lobbyists send men with guns to burn their farms–and kill all who resist. It’s a pity they have no Second Amendment.

        1. It’s a greater pity that you’re off your meds.

  13. When Arizona passed tough immigration laws it was unconstitutional because the federal government has supremacy over immigration. When California passes immigration laws to hamper federal enforcement it is constitutional because of the tenth amendment.

    Heads I win, tails you lose

    1. Technically, the supremacy clause states that federal “law” is supreme. Arizona wasn’t challenging federal “law”, they were challenging a federal policy of not enforcing that law.

      If the courts were serious about upholding the Constitution, it would have been Arizona relying on the Supremacy clause, not the federal government.

  14. I think a compromise can be reached here.
    If a state wants to be a sanctuary state, and protect illegal aliens from federal immigration/deportation/residency laws, I’m okay with that… so long as we agree that illegal aliens only be allowed to reside in those states.
    Give everybody a month or two, and after that any illegal alien found outside the borders of a sanctuary state is immediately deported.
    I’ll leave it to the citizens of those states to sort out if they want to provide sanctuary or not.

  15. I came here expecting to side with California on all three laws but think the first is clearly unconstitutional on first amendment grounds, and the second is probably unconstitutional on supremacy clause grounds.

    The third one should pass muster, but it also is a dumb law IMO. If local law departments want to give information to the Feds, the state should not be able to prevent it. I prefer local government having more control over policy than state government. Especially in such a large and diverse state as California.

    1. Even the third one is dubious, in so far as it prohibits state employees from even making a call to the feds on their own time.

    2. California trade unions pushed Chinese exclusion back when nativist Socialism was the Promised Land. But what is happening is more like a Fugitive Slave Law than a California guilt trip. Has anyone looked at tourism figures lately? People are crossing the street to avoid the Homeland SS, Transport Socialist Arbeiterpartei groping and asset forfeiture looting. Customs is shot through with officious thugs eager to humiliate someone weak and disarmed. This happened in 1931, when Herbert Hoover sent men with guns to enforce Ordered Liberty, and emigration outpaced immigration.

  16. Being California would have no problem and would likely demand that states share info on those not allowed to have guns via federal government controlled database. And the State would also like to oblige to the feds on other federal crimes like kidnapping and bank robberies. But they refuse to on one other issue shows there is no moral backing to their arguments just the desire to keep people who will vote for their party in state

  17. Thank Allah, Minerva and Thor for Beauregard’s stupidity! Now is the time to go to resident aliens and ask for donations to support libertarian party candidates. Naturalized citizens can vote directly. Many of these people are here because mystical bigots in Beauregard’s Senate passed laws and signed treaties exporting US prohibition and asset-forfeiture looting to wreck their countries of origin. The Dems would deport their own mothers for the sake of Soviet socialism. Only the LP has a principled platform for border safety and generally reducing the violence of law. Trump couldn’t make the LP look any better compared to the GOP without appointing Julius Streicher, Pat Robertson or David Duke.

  18. Sure seems a whole lot more complicated than it should be.
    Are the people in question here in the U.S. legally?
    If so then no need for any “sanctuary” policies.
    Comply with the law. Simple.

    1. If complying with the law was simple, there would be no need for lawyers.

  19. Interesting comments by the acting director of ICE on what the California Sheriff’s association had to say yesterday. I don’t think Gov. Brown’s support in his own state is nearly as strong as he thinks it is. In fact, some preliminary polling indicates CA Democrats may be hopelessly fractured on a lot of things going into November.

    1. Maybe he takes that old Deak Kennedy’s song a little too seriously.

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