Supreme Court

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Hear Sanctuary Cities Case

The constitutional showdown over federalism and immigration approaches SCOTUS.


The constitutional showdown over sanctuary cities is now one step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court. Late last month, the Justice Department filed a petition asking the Court to hear arguments in United States v. California, a case which asks whether California's status as a "sanctuary state" is illegally hampering federal immigration law. (Sanctuary states are jurisdictions whose officials refuse to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.)

The case centers on the California Values Act of 2017. Among other things, that law forbids state and local police throughout the Golden State from providing certain forms of assistance to federal immigration authorities, such as "detaining an individual on the basis of a [federal immigration] hold request"; "transfer[ring] an individual to immigration authorities unless authorized by a judicial warrant or judicial probable cause determination"; and "providing information" to federal immigration authorities "regarding a person's release date…or other information unless that information is available to the public, or is in response to a notification request from immigration authorities in accordance with" California law.

As far as the Trump administration is concerned, California "openly seeks to undermine federal immigration enforcement" and thus deserves to be slapped down by SCOTUS.

But if the Supreme Court does agree to hear the case, the justices may well take the opposite view. Indeed, if the Court follows a precedent authored by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the Trump administration is likely to lose.

Printz v. United States (1997) dealt with a provision of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act requiring local police to assist in the enforcement of federal gun control law. Sheriff Jay Printz of Ravalli County, Montana, challenged the provision on 10th Amendment grounds, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the feds to order state officials like him to carry out a federal statute.

The Supreme Court sided with the sheriff. "The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems," declared Justice Scalia's majority opinion, "nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program."

The same logic that applied in Printz would seem to apply equally well in U.S. v. California. If it's unconstitutional for the feds to commandeer the states into enforcing a federal gun control scheme, it's also unconstitutional for the feds the commandeer the states into enforcing federal immigration policy.

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  1. I dunno, I would encourage California to become a sanctuary state. I’d pour as much gasoline on the dumpster fire that is California at every opportunity.

    1. Dumpster fire as the 6th biggest economy in the world. Haha.

      1. “i’m a hated minority in my own state, but at least i have muh GDP numbers”

        1. His point is retarded anyway. The only reason it is as big as it is is because it’s part of the United States.

      2. Venezuela has more proven oil in reserve than anyone.

        Did you think pointing out a dumb non sequitur would make anyone stop laughing at you?

        Well, good news idiot! Cali is also losing tens of thousands of people every year.

      3. Last year they were 5th largest. Good going there.

  2. No. The same logic does not apply. No one is asking the states to enforce immigration law. They are asking the states to cooperate with the feds when they enforce immigration law.

    The Brady Act required County Law Enforcement Officers to conduct background checks as part of the enforcement scheme of the law. Here, no one is asking state and local law enforcement to do anything like that. What they are asking them to do is recognize a federal retainer. They don’t have to find the illegals in their custody. But when ICE calls and says “do you have so and so and if you do hold him so we can come get him” to do so and recognize and ICE hold just like they would recognize a hold from any other law enforcement agencies.

    Unless Trump is demanding that every state and local jurisdiction run ICE checks on everyone they pick up, and I don’t think he is, the Prinze case doesn’t apply here. This is about state and local governments recognizing and cooperating with federal law enforcement just like they do and are required to do with each other

    1. “…the Prinze case doesn’t apply here…”

      We disagree. Printz, according to my reading, and everyone else’s which I have read, does apply. This is why Printz is considered somewhat of a hallmark of federalism. (Please note that this statement should not be taken as any indication of support for the cesspool which California has become.)

      1. The principles might apply but the facts in this case are not analogous to the facts in Prinz. To say they are is to extend Prinz beyond all reason and to say that cooperating with and recognizing federal law is the same as actually enforcing federal law.

        What is your reading of the case?

    2. I am not so sure, John = No. The same logic does not apply.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think CA is totally in the wrong with their refusal to provide information to ICE. I want every illegal alien deported post-haste by every available means (plane, train, boat, automobile, whatever). That said, you cannot force a state to expend their resources to enforce federal law.

      This is the essence of federalism. I look at this like I look at the question of unfunded mandates. No can do.

      To me, the way to ‘persuade’ CA to help is to remove federal funding until the pain from the lost funding is greater than the pain of providing information to ICE. This method is slower, but I think more in keeping with our Republican system of government.

  3. Sanctuary states are jurisdictions whose officials refuse to participate in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

    What do you call a state whose officials refuse to participate in the enforcement of *any* federal law?

    1. Root is playing fast and lose with words here. What does “participate” mean in this context? He is pretending it means go out and arrest people for federal law violations when in fact it means recognize federal warrants on prisoners in your custody.

      No one is requiring that the states do anything except let the feds know who they have in custody and hold those whom the feds say are here illegally.

      1. yeah, how about these state officers not openly subvert federal law? we have documented cases of state officers hustling the offender out the back to avoid ICE. ‘Sanctuary cities’ laws are clearly opposed to federal law and meant to subvert it.

        1. Yes we do. And those cases and the issues involved here are in no way analogous to the Prinz case as Root is trying to claim.

        2. Local law enforcement cannot be forced to participate in federal operations, but actively subverting the federal operations (by, among other things, tipping off illegal immigrants about scheduled raids, etc.) should not be countenanced. By way of example, if the police are chasing a bank robber on foot, I have no obligation to tackle the fleeing suspect. But, if I start directing him away from the police so as to ensure he evades apprehension, I am an accessory after the fact.

          I think the outcome of the case will be determined on the basis of what it is that California is doing.

          But, at the end of the day, I see nothing that stops the federal government from inundating the state with ICE and FBI agents, apart from the cost and lack of manpower. A better use of the money, however, would be building a wall or otherwise ensuring that those apprehended at the border are immediately detained and prohibited entry.

          1. Here is what California is doing. They are refusing to tell the feds if they have a person in custody who has an ICE detainer. So, ICE calls up a county jail in California and says “are you have Juan Hernandez” and California law says that the county can’t answer. In addition, California law says that they can’t give ICE a list of who is in custody or tell them anything at all.

            That is going way beyond not participating in enforcing federal law. This is rejecting federal supremacy and federal sovereignty. If any other jurisdiction or indeed if any other federal law enforcement agency called up and asked those questions the state of California would be required to answer it under the full faith and credit clause.

            1. I’m wondering under other federal laws like bank robbery and kidnapping crimes that fall under Federal jurisdiction states comply with those reporting requirements when in custody so its clearly not an issue of resources they are just refusing in these cases, selective enforcement of laws.

              1. Absolutely they do, every single day. No one has ever claimed that a county jail turning over a prisoner to the FBI or a US Marshal who has a federal warrant for a purely federal crime is the state participating in the Feds commandeering the states to enforce federal law. That is absurd. And it is just as absurd to claim it when they do so for an ICE warrant.

                1. No one has ever claimed that a county jail turning over a prisoner to the FBI or a US Marshal who has a federal warrant for a purely federal crime is the state participating in the Feds commandeering the states to enforce federal law.

                  No one has ever claimed that because Printz doesn’t prohibit states and their political subdivisions from voluntarily cooperating in identifying and turning over such criminals to federal authorities. However, if a state or its political subdivisions decided that they didn’t want to voluntarily do that for other categories of criminals, that would also be covered by Printz.

                  1. No it wouldn’t. Printz says nothing of the sort. Printz says that they are not required to do checks on people for the federal government. It says nothing about not turning over people that the federal government requests. Those are two different things.

  4. ‘Twould be especially federalistic for the feds to have no LEO at all, to have to depend on state and local cops for everything. Extend that to only having city police and county sheriffs, and we’d have some interesting times.

    1. so you have a fantasy about devolving into a confederation.

      that’s neat.

      we’re not doing that, though.

  5. let me get this straight:

    1. libertarians don’t support the existence of federal law enforcement
    2. libertarians don’t want the military used for federal law enforcement
    3. libertarians don’t want state or city law enforcement to assist in enforcing federal law

    but then they want to tell me they’re not open-borders supporters. yeah ok.

    1. They also don’t want anyone deported once they are here. But saying they are for open borders is just a slander made up by nationalist racists or something.

      1. i mean, I’m a nationalist racist, but that still doesn’t make me wrong 🙂

    2. “that’s no Libertarian”

    3. No one speaks for “libertarians”. Each of us speaks for ourselves.

      You will find a number of us who believe that the only legitimate function of government is to protect our rights. We have a military to protect our rights from foreign threats, a police force to protect our rights from criminals, a court system to protect our rights from the police, etc.

      Plenty of us see immigration enforcement as a legitimate function of libertarian government within that framework, and support the constitutional enumeration of setting the rules of naturalization to Congress for that reason.

      Of course, I’m describing my own position, here, and I do want to see our laws changed to allow far more immigration that we have. However, I do not oppose the existence of federal law enforcement. I think using the military to defend our borders (rather than Germany’s) may be the most libertarian use of our military, and I don’t see why city or state law enforcement should aid and abet illegal aliens in the violation of our duly passed immigration laws.

      Hope that clears things up.

      1. Plenty of us see immigration enforcement as a legitimate function of libertarian government within that framework, and support the constitutional enumeration of setting the rules of naturalization to Congress for that reason.

        how does immigration enforcement protect your rights?

        1. Democracy has a few legitimate places. For instance, the government has no business inflicting unpopular wars or treaties on the American people over their objections and against their will. There may be times when the country wants to go to war or enter into a treaty over my objections, but policy in those cases should defer to the will of the people on that–even if the people are wrong. The ability to govern themselves that way (within democracy’s proper purview is essential to the existence of a civil society. If the government is imposing taxes, wars, treaties, etc. on us against our will and over our objections, then we can’t possibly claim to be living in a free society.

          That’s the mark of the boundaries of democracy’s proper purview–if you can’t be a free society without deferring to the people on that point, then it’s withing democracy’s proper bounds. Thank goodness the framers made the right call on so many of those issues. They did a good job of keeping things out of democracy’s purview when they don’t belong, as well. The First Amendment, for instance, starts out, “Congress shall make no law”. Indeed, you can’t have a free society when other people’s speech and religious beliefs are subject to a popularity test.

          I would argue that, like the power to declare war, setting the rules of naturalization is well within the proper purview of democracy. It is absolutely essential to a free society that the people who decide who is and isn’t a citizen need to take the opinions of the people who are citizens into consideration. I think that the members of the Mormon church need to be the ones who decide how one becomes a Mormon, the Baltimore Orioles booster club should be the ones to decide how one can join the booster club, and American citizens should be the ones to decide how someone becomes an American citizen. I am not a Mormon, and if Mormons had to check with me to see if I approved of their rules on becoming a Mormon, that would be fundamentally unfair.

          If someone other than the citizens of the United States were determining how people become American citizens, that would also be unfair and for the same reasons. Now, please note, that the American people can’t make rules that infringe, for instance, on people’s First Amendment rights. The Constitution enumerates the power to set the rules of naturalization to the Congress in the same place that it enumerates the power to declare war. But the First Amendment also says that, “Congress shall make no law”–which would include setting the rules of naturalization so that they would infringe on someone’s First Amendment rights.

          With those restrictions protecting democracy in its proper place and keeping democracy out of where it doesn’t belong, the ability to set the rules for naturalization is essential to a free society and having other people butt to tell you how others can become an American citizen of our objections and against our will is an attack on that freedom to define ourselves as a society–just like imposing a war on us over our objections would be an attack on our freedom. Yeah, protecting our rights to set the rules on how you become one of us is a legitimate part of the government’s legitimate job to protect our right to make choices for ourselves.

    4. I wish we could just have open borders and nothing go wrong, but I realize that when we don’t filter for ideology, we get people who won’t support our values. At that point, you’re betting on convincing them to appreciate your values, but not only is this no guarantee, but your values actually enable them to disagree with you. At that point it’s a numbers game and eventually, if we don’t do anything about it, we won’t have an amendment-proof majority that supports the Constitution as is. We erroneously assume 1A and 2A can’t be repealed. Germans used to think the Nazis were just a bit rough around the edges too.

      1. Who gets to define “our values”? Different people have different values. The values of a Kentucky hillbilly are going to be much different from the values of a Seattle barista. The values of a Chicago cop are going to differ from the values of a high school teacher in Denver. And the values of a Mexican grape harvested are going to be closer to the Chicago cop than they are to the barista from Seattle or the Denver high school teacher. Or even the Kentucky hillbilly because the Mexican grape harvested will at least work.

    5. but then they want to tell me they’re not open-borders supporters. yeah ok.

      Why would a libertarian tell you they don’t support open borders?

  6. “The same logic that applied in Printz would seem to apply equally well in U.S. v. California. If it’s unconstitutional for the feds to commandeer the states into enforcing a federal gun control scheme, it’s also unconstitutional for the feds the commandeer the states into enforcing federal immigration policy.”

    One of the problems with this interpretation is that it ignores the rationale behind the decision that shut down Prop 187.

    Prop 187 was a ballot initiative that passed with 60% of the vote in 1994. It prohibited the state of California from providing education, non-emergency healthcare, or other public services to illegal immigrants.

    The rationale was that Prop 187 was unconstitutional because California isn’t allowed to set immigration policy.

    The question is, if setting immigration policy by restricting the eligibility for services is unconstitutional in the case of Prop 187, why isn’t it unconstitutional for the states to actively aid illegal aliens in violating federal law and avoiding federal law enforcement?

    Incidentally, these decisions reverberate far beyond the court system. If American citizens can’t control how their money is spent or whether immigration policies are enforced in the states, they’ll vote for a president who promises to do so–with or without the courts behind him.

    1. P.S. I mentioned earlier today that a federal judge blocked a policy by the Trump administration to require that immigrants prove they either have health insurance or the means to acquire it.

      If the states can’t decide whether and how they spend money on immigrants, and the federal government can’t require immigrants to stay off of Medicaid and other federal welfare programs, then who gets to make these decisions about how our tax money is spent?

      Why does it always seem like no matter what the issue is or its justification, the immigrants get our money first–and we get to decide what to do with whatever is left over after they’re done with it?

      I’d understand if both how to spend money and immigration weren’t enumerated powers of Congress, but they are. This isn’t like the First Amendment, where, “Congress shall make no law”.

      1. The answer is the immigration activists decide and the answer they give is always “the immigrant gets what they want”.

  7. Why isn’t the DOJ charging these people with the actual federal statute that says you can’t help illegals?

    1. because Trump is an incredible pussy

  8. Let’s see how many “libertarians” here come out as the bootlickers they are…

    1. a nation that cannot determine who is allowed to be here is not a nation. sorry that goes against anarchism. Fortunately for you, there are 200+ government service providers available, so you can choose another one that suits you.

      1. a nation that cannot determine who is allowed to be here is not a nation


    2. I love that you stupidly left your screen name unprotected pedo.

    3. As if you have a problem with bootlicking.

  9. that’s fine. if law enforcement doesn’t want to cooperate, arrest them for harboring an illegal immigration / conspiracy to encourage / aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

  10. >>If it’s unconstitutional for the feds to commandeer the states into enforcing a federal gun control scheme, it’s also unconstitutional for the feds the commandeer the states into enforcing federal immigration policy.

    overly broad comparison.

    1. It is a totally overbroad comparison. What the feds were requiring of the states under the Brady act is nothing like what they are requiring of them here. As usual, Reason won’t make an honest argument on immigration.

  11. If you are one that believes the Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what is lawful and constitutional, then you have believed a lie and a myth that Jefferson warned about. The States still retain their rights to this day to defy the federal judiciary, which has become an oligarcy. We just need strong statesmen as governors and legislatures to make that stand!

    In writing to William Jarvis, Jefferson said, “You seem . . . to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions; a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”

    The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary; an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped.”

  12. No Sanctuaries In “Sanctuary Cities”
    While it is beyond federal law to permit the arrest of state and local officials who enact sanctuary city laws and policies, it is not beyond federal law (indeed, it is entirely consistent with federal law and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution) to arrest and prosecute any such official who actually physically obstructs ICE agents from investigating, arresting, and prosecuting illegal aliens. One wonders, though, whether “actual[ ] physical[ ] obstruct[ion]” is the only basis on which rogue State and Local officials who devise and promote “sanctuary city laws and policies” can be prosecuted.

    For example, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1) provides (in pertinent part) that
    (A) Any person who– (iii) knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or means of transportation;

    (iv) or encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law; or (v) (I) engages in any conspiracy to commit any of the preceding acts; or (II) aids or abets the commission of any of the preceding acts, shall be punished as provided in subparagraph (B).

    If Mr. Trump is serious about enforcing the laws pertaining to illegal immigration against the worst (or at least the most notorious and insufferable) scoff laws of all, perhaps proving that there are no sanctuaries in “sanctuary cities” is the way to start.

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