The Trump administration is going toe to toe with a defiant California trying to force the state to cooperate with their agenda of increased immigrant deportations. Trump’s team went to federal court on Tuesday attempting to invalidate three state laws in a direct challenge to California’s policies.
Administration officials indicate that the three laws in question, all passed by the Legislature last year, openly obstruct federal immigration law and also violate the Constitutions supremacy clause which gives federal law precedence over state enactments.
“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that are imposed on you,” Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions plans to tell a meeting of the California Peace Officers Association in Sacramento on Wednesday.
“A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law. It is a rejection of law. And it creates an open border system,” AG Sessions says https://t.co/8hWVvaglqb pic.twitter.com/7VGebXbTTU
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 7, 2018
“We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe that we are going to win.”
The California laws make it a crime for business owners to help federal agents find and detain undocumented workers voluntarily. They prohibit local law enforcement from alerting immigration agents when detainees are released from custody. And they create s state inspection program for federal immigration detention centers.
Administration officials told reporters that other states that are pursuing similar laws will be targeted in court.
California officials have regularly tried to paralyze Trump’s efforts to deal with immigration issues. Many state and local officials believe that Trump’s policies are making communities less safe and undermining local economies.
This court case will test the power of the Trump administration’s ability to force California police departments and local governments to cooperate with deportations and other aggressive enforcement actions.
In a statement, Gov. Jerry Brown called the federal suit a “stunt.”
"So here is my message to [Oakland, Calif., Mayor Libby] Schaaf: How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda," AG Sessions says https://t.co/8hWVvaglqb pic.twitter.com/iWYiaMEIm1
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 7, 2018
“At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America,” he said. “Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”
Other state leaders are expressing confidence that Washington’s legal attacks would fail.
“We’ll see what the courts say,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former legislative leader.
“So far the administration’s record there is not stellar,” he said, referring to the administration’s repeated losses in court. “We didn’t pass these laws to protect people with serious criminal backgrounds. We are protecting our communities from immigration agents intimidating people and overreaching in very serious ways.”
State Senate leader Kevin de León declared a similar sentiment: “If U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is suing California because we refuse to help the Trump administration tear apart honest, hardworking families, I say bring it on. Based on the U.S. Department of Justice’s track record in court, I like our odds,” he said.
But the Trump administration may be on more sure ground in this case. Officials charge that the state measures not only hinder their ability to carry out federal law but also put immigration agents and communities at risk. The lawsuit includes a declaration from ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan, who said that the inability of ICE officers to go to local lockups to pick up immigrants who have been detained by local police agencies forces them to hunt down suspects in more dangerous settings.
Former Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., who headed the Justice Department in the Obama administration and now represents the state Senate, wrote a letter defending the measure’s constitutionality. “The federal government has the authority to enforce its immigration laws, but doesn’t have the power to draft California officials into helping,” he said.
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Tuesday that the state would use a similar argument to defend its law in court.
However, Attorney General Xavier did just lose a federal court ruling that said the DOJ does not have to give California grant money.
“We are doing what we believe is best to make sure the people of California are safe,” he said. “We are doing nothing to intrude on the work of federal government to do immigration enforcement.”
“When people feel confident to come forward to report crimes in our communities or participate in policing efforts without fear of deportation, they are more likely to cooperate with the criminal justice system. “
In January, Becerra put employers on notice that they would be prosecuted if they did not follow the state’s new Immigrant Worker Protection Act, AB 450, which prohibits businesses from voluntarily sharing information about workers with federal immigration agents. The law also requires that employers alert workers if their records are going to be inspected by federal officials. If a business owner voluntarily aids a federal immigration officer, he or she could face fines of up to $10,000.
The Trump administration lawsuit says state officials understand that such threats are designed to frustrate immigration enforcement actions and that the law puts private businesses in a no-win situation: They are being required by the state to rebuff federal agents.
“California has chosen to purposefully contradict the will and responsibility of the Congress to protect our Homeland,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement in which she thanked Sessions for his efforts to “uphold the rule of law and protect American communities.”
Do you think the Trump administration will win this court case?
Credit: LA Times