Sanctuary Cities

California's Sanctuary Laws Survive Another Trump Challenge

Federal judges rule state cannot be forced to assist immigration officials.


California can keep all its sanctuary cities and limit local both law enforcement cooperation and private employer cooperation with immigration officials, ruled a panel of federal circuit judges.

The Department of Justice has been challenging three immigration-focused laws passed by California in 2017. One (SB 54) essentially turned the entire state into an immigration "sanctuary," significantly restricting the ability of law enforcement officers within the state from assisting the Department of Homeland Security in tracking down or detaining illegal immigrants unless they have been convicted of certain crimes. The second (AB 450) prohibits private businesses from voluntarily allowing federal immigration officials to enter non-public areas of their companies, as well as preventing them from accessing their records unless the feds have warrants. The third (AB 103) imposes inspection requirements on federal immigration detention facilities within California.

The Department of Justice argued that all of these laws are pre-empted by federal government immigration law and inappropriately attempted to impose burdens on the feds. Not so for two of those laws, said three judges with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. It's federalism!

The judges' reasoning for rejecting the feds should be familiar to anybody who paid attention to the conflicts as states started legalizing marijuana for medical use. It's true that the federal government has the authority to round up people in the country illegally or anybody who has committed crimes that allow for deportation. But the federal government lacks the authority to demand state-level assistance in enforcing federal immigration guidelines, much like the federal government cannot force state or local police to arrest people for violating federal drug laws.

"SB 54 may well frustrate the federal government's immigration enforcement efforts," the panel ruled. "However, whatever the wisdom of the underlying policy adopted by California, that frustration is permissible, because California has the right, pursuant to the anti-commandeering rule, to refrain from assisting with federal efforts."

For AB 450, the Justice Department argued that the bill intruded on the relationship between the feds and employers and attempted to impose requirements on federal inspections that weren't authorized by Congress. Here the judges said that, actually, the imposition is on the relationship between employers and employees. It controls what employers must and must not do, not what the feds can do. The feds can certainly ask an employer to let them inspect a facility without a warrant. But it's the employer that will get punished if he or she cooperates.

That may sound like a weird dodge, but it does raise the question of what would happen if a business owner challenged the law. By what authority does the state of California tell private citizens when they can cooperate with immigration officials? That's significantly different from telling government employees when they can work with the feds.

The judges did determine that AB 103 does, unlike AB 450, burden the federal government with demands that are out of the scope of California's authority in part and that a lower court erred when it concluded this burden was not significant.

So in the end, the court rejected the Department of Justice's attempts to stop the first two laws from being implemented and sent the third one back down to a lower court for a second look. It's another loss for the Trump administration, whose legal efforts against sanctuary city practices have been largely unsuccessful.

Read the ruling here.

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  1. This sounds correct to me. I would say that it also applies to the ATF, BLM, EPA, etc.

    (No doubt that will trigger calls of “No! Wait! That’s different! For…reasons!”)

    1. Yeah, watch the freakout when states become assault weapon sanctuaries.

    2. I do work for a GC who always makes OSHA/MOSHA get a warrant before they step foot on one of their job sites. I love them for it.

    3. Federalism is alive and well.

      No more local and state police officers enforcing federal gun laws, food laws, 21 smoking age restrictions, etc.

    4. It does apply to all of them. See: Printz v. United States.

    1. It’s such an immoral thing to do.

    2. they learned their lesson from all of the hobos sent over there…not by changing their policies but by whining about it

  2. He never learns. I’m 48 and Trump is the first unique man I have ever heard

  3. I wonder how the same folks felt about Fugitive Slave Laws, and now about 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries. Or, say, Carbon Sanctuaries

    1. Where I live, we can still exhale as much C-Oh-2 as we want, without Government Almighty heat coming down. But I am NOT going to tell you where I live, for fear of getting trampled underfoot, as the hordes flock here for C-Oh-2 exhalation freedoms!!!

      I am still waiting for some place in the USA to declare itself a refuge for those who want to participate in cheap-plastic-flute-blowing freedoms… Nary a sign of one yet!

      In the meantime…

      To find precise details on what NOT to do, to avoid the flute police, please see … This has been a pubic service, courtesy of the Church of SQRLS!

  4. Why would you write that it’s a loss for the Trump administration.?
    It’s really a win for “state’s rights” over the decades long, ever growing, encroachment of Federal power over the States.
    Maxim: the created (Feds) can never be greater than the creator (States).
    Federal law only applies on Federal property.

    1. Why would you write that it’s a loss for the Trump administration.?

      Because it was the Trump Administration which challenged these laws in court, and lost?

      1. Obama’s administration (EPA specifically) challenged tons of things in court and lost, on purpose. Try again.

        1. I’m failing to see the relevance to the case at hand. Are you suggesting that the Trump Administration tried to lose this case on purpose?

          1. I’m refuting your assertion that a loss in court is a de facto loss for the administration.

            This would be the part of the discussion where you try to claim that wasn’t what you meant when you said

            “Why would you write that it’s a loss for the Trump administration.?

            Because it was the Trump Administration which challenged these laws in court, and lost?”

              1. You’re responding to yourself?

            1. Umm, the Administration did lose. They lost the case. That is what a loss signifies.
              Are you trying to argue that a loss really isn’t a loss? Do I have to quote the definition of “loss” for you?
              So to answer the question, “why would you write that it’s a loss for the Trump administration”, the answer is, “because they lost the case”.
              Now if you’d like to provide some evidence that there is some super-duper 99th-dimensional chess going on here in which case this loss might end up being some sort of net win overall, then please provide such evidence.
              Until that point, then I’m not going to accept some wild claim that a loss is really a win.

              1. This is kind of like declaring the game lost in the second quarter; Trump seems to have more luck at the Supreme Court than in the 9th circuit. (Where his losing is nearly certain.)

          2. “I’m failing to see the relevance to the case at hand. ”

            Administrations lose cases to get court opinions in ways that are otherwise politically impossible. If Trump were trying to get California to Re-establish Federalism, this case is a perfect poison-pill.

            Regardless, your original reply didn’t address the specifics of the case at hand either, it was a blanket statement. And it was profoundly ignorant of the tactics used on such cases, as I explained to you.

            1. Jeff cannot STAND being wrong. He will literally lie and shift the goalposts, as he did here, until you get tired of watching him flail and leave, at which point he will slink in and take a bitchy potshot.

              He quite obviously claimed this was a loss for Trump’s administration because they are the one who challenged it in court. Your point is too nuanced for him, so he shifted the goalposts and will now attempt to argue that Trump doesn’t care about Federalism, to draw attention away from his ridiculous and incorrect assertion.

              1. I don’t actually think Trump cares one way or the other about state’s rights. And I think this probably was a loss for his administration, at least before the idea of 2nd amendment sanctuaries blossomed.

                That opinion doesn’t change the fact that administrations have in the past taken losing cases to court in order to establish favorable precedents. It is a tactic, and a well known one. And so Chemjeff’s blanket assertion is discredited.

                1. Being discredited never stopped him from shifting the goalposts and strawmanning before.

                2. Now you’re just engaging in a logical fallacy.

                  Because some people in the past have used losing cases as a tactic to achieve a different kind of victory, does not mean that every instance of a loss in court is evidence of the same tactic at work.

                  So – once again – if you want to try to provide evidence that there is some 99-dimensional chess going on and that this loss in court is part of some larger strategy that we aren’t plainly aware of, then go right ahead. Until that time, I’ll interpret the court decision as a straightforward loss.

              2. It isn’t just “nuanced” to argue that maybe Trump actually wanted to lose this case, but didn’t want to upset his supporters by arguing against a federal authority to enforce cooperation with immigration laws. It is completely unsupported by any evidence.

  5. in other California news… the couple who shackled their children will get life in prison

    It’s easy to predict the reaction from the left….we need to ban homeschooling and think of new ways to regulate parenting. Meanwhile, the non-Californians see that story and thank God we don’t live in a state filled with psycho people

  6. Pete Wilson sued the federal government to reimburse the state of California for the state’s costs in caring for illegal immigrants, but the courts ruled that because those programs (schools, prisons, etc.) were administered by the states, the federal government couldn’t be made to pay for them.

    Then the courts ruled that because immigration is a federal issue, California can’t require state employees to discriminate between illegal immigrants and others–as required by Prop 187.

    Now, they’re telling us that because immigration is a federal issue, states can’t be forced to comply with federal law either?!

    Why does it seem that no matter what the Constitution, the law, or prior rulings say, the ruling is always that nothing can get in the way of illegal immigration?

    I’m starting to see immigration like the drug war and the war on terror. It long seemed like there was no way in which the courts wouldn’t bend the law in order to support the drug war or fighting terrorism. It’s pretty much the same way with immigration. Is there anything the courts won’t do to protect illegal immigrants from the rule of law?

    1. The states can be compelled to comply with Federal law. They can’t be compelled to enforce Federal law. See: Printz v United States.

  7. Good.

    Now let them keep all of the illegals.

    Have fun.

  8. “The Department of Justice argued that all of these laws are pre-empted by federal government immigration law and inappropriately attempted to impose burdens on the feds. Not so for two of those laws, said three judges with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. It’s federalism!”

    Remind me the necessity of stare decisis in this decision when considering Arizona v US. I was told respecting precedents is SUPER important but, you know, it seems that is not the case here.

  9. Anybody who wonders about the power of the Feds to force States to enforce their laws needs to re-familiarize themselves with Printz v. United States 521 U.S. 898 (1997).

    1. Yeah, but I’m more interested in the alleged power of states to order their own citizens to not voluntarily cooperate with federal law enforcement, or even to actively work against it. That strikes me as pretty dubious.

      I’m not even persuaded that states are allowed to demand that of their own employees, at least when they’re off the clock. Making that demand of private citizens is absurd.

      1. If I were the U.S. attorney, I would charge employers with obstruction of justice if they warned their employees of any upcoming immigration inspection.

      2. Any information that would be useful to immigration officials would be personal information of customers and the States surely have a right to write their own data protection regulations.

  10. […] — California’s Sanctuary Laws Survive Another Trump Challenge by Scott […]

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