Ses­sions will go to court over sanc­tu­ary laws Files law­suit against Cal­i­for­nia call­ing poli­cies dan­ger­ous to com­mu­ni­ties

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY JEFF MORDOCK

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions opened a new front in the le­gal war over Cal­i­for­nia’s sanc­tu­ary city poli­cies last week, ask­ing a fed­eral court to halt three state laws that pro­hibit po­lice and busi­nesses from co­op­er­at­ing with fed­eral agents.

The law­suit, filed in fed­eral district court in Sacra­mento, says those laws not only tram­ple on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s power to set na­tional im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, but they also en­dan­ger com­mu­ni­ties by free­ing crim­i­nals back onto the streets.

“The De­part­ment of Jus­tice and Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion are go­ing to fight th­ese un­just, un­fair and un­con­sti­tu­tional poli­cies that have been im­posed on you,” Mr. Ses­sions said in a speech to the Cal­i­for­nia Peace Of­fi­cers As­so­ci­a­tion, where he is ex­pected to an­nounce the law­suit.

The move comes just days af­ter Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra ac­cused the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of “ter­ror­iz­ing” im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties with an en­force­ment sweep that net­ted more than 200 de­portable im­mi­grants in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area.

Oak­land Mayor Libby Schaaf sparked con­tro­versy af­ter she tipped off im­mi­grants to the sweep. Fed­eral of­fi­cials said she may have helped as many as 800 crim­i­nal im­mi­grants es­cape de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers.

The White House con­firmed last week that Ms. Schaaf is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for her ac­tions.

A crack­down on sanc­tu­ary cities has been a ma­jor fo­cus of Pres­i­dent Trump, who in 2015, just af­ter an­nounc­ing his pres­i­den­tial bid, seized on the killing of Kate Steinle by an il­le­gal im­mi­grant who had been re­leased from jail un­der San Fran­cisco’s sanc­tu­ary pol­icy.

But Mr. Trump’s at­tempts to crack down on sanc­tu­ar­ies have sparked a back­lash. An­a­lysts said hun­dreds of ju­ris­dic­tions em­braced sanc­tu­ary poli­cies last year, chiefly in re­ac­tion to Mr. Trump.

Cal­i­for­nia led the way, with Gov. Jerry Brown, a Demo­crat, sign­ing three pieces of leg­is­la­tion lim­it­ing co­op­er­a­tion with U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment and the U.S. Bor­der Pa­trol.

Se­nate Bill 54, which took ef­fect Jan. 1, bars state and lo­cal law en­force­ment of­fi­cials from ask­ing peo­ple their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, pro­hibits them from hold­ing mi­grants for pickup by ICE and lim­its how much in­for­ma­tion they are al­lowed to pro­vide to ICE of­fi­cers.

As­sem­bly Bill 103, which be­came law last sum­mer, re­quires a state-run in­spec­tion of mi­grants held in fed­eral pris­ons — in­clud­ing the cir­cum­stances of their ar­rests and their processing. The law­suit says those re­quests are im­proper and that the state has “no law­ful in­ter­est in in­ves­ti­gat­ing fed­eral law en­force­ment ef­forts.”

As­sem­bly Bill 450, which took ef­fect Jan. 1, pro­hibits pri­vate em­ploy­ers from vol­un­tar­ily shar­ing in­for­ma­tion with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials or al­low­ing of­fi­cers in pri­vate ar­eas of their busi­nesses.

Mr. Be­cerra is­sued a warning this year that he in­tended to pros­e­cute busi­nesses un­der As­sem­bly Bill 450. Vi­o­la­tors face fines rang­ing from $2,000 to $10,000.

Mr. Be­cerra and Mr. Brown are named as de­fen­dants in the new law­suit.

Mr. Brown, in a state­ment Tues­day, said SB54 still al­lowed Home­land Se­cu­rity agents to en­force fed­eral laws in Cal­i­for­nia. And he said lo­cal sher­iffs can still al­low de­por­ta­tion of­fi­cers ac­cess to their jails, if they wish.

“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!!”

Mr. Be­cerra added on Twit­ter that “no mat­ter what hap­pens in Washington, Cal­i­for­nia will stay the course and en­force all our laws and pro­tect all our peo­ple. That’s how we keep our com­mu­ni­ties safe.”

State Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, au­thor of SB54, pre­dicted Cal­i­for­nia would pre­vail in court “based on Jeff Ses­sion’s [sic] track record in courts so far.”

“Bot­tom line: Cal­i­for­nia will NOT help Pres­i­dent Trump, Jeff Ses­sions or [ICE chief] Thomas Ho­man rip chil­dren from the arms of their moth­ers and fa­thers,” the law­maker tweeted. “Here in CA, we em­brace our his­toric di­ver­sity, and we will do ev­ery­thing in our le­gal power to pro­tect it.”

A se­nior De­part­ment of Jus­tice of­fi­cial said Cal­i­for­nia has been tar­geted be­cause the laws went into ef­fect re­cently but other states’ laws also are un­der re­view.

The Cal­i­for­nia law­suit says the state is at­tempt­ing to in­ter­fere with fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment.

Much of the com­plaint hinges on a 2012 Supreme Court rul­ing in which the jus­tices over­turned part of Ari­zona’s state im­mi­gra­tion laws, say­ing states couldn’t be al­lowed to cre­ate a patch­work of poli­cies.

In that case, Ari­zona sought to help boost en­force­ment by push­ing lo­cal po­lice to in­quire about im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus and sought to im­pose its own pun­ish­ments on il­le­gal im­mi­grants. The high court ruled that the state’s in­de­pen­dent penal­ties amounted to in­ter­fer­ence with fed­eral pol­icy.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion says that if Ari­zona’s ef­forts to help fed­eral au­thor­i­ties were il­le­gal, then Cal­i­for­nia’s ef­forts to “ob­struct” also are il­le­gal.

“Based on its enu­mer­ated pow­ers and its con­sti­tu­tional power as a sov­er­eign to con­trol and con­duct re­la­tions with for­eign na­tions, the United States has broad au­thor­ity to es­tab­lish im­mi­gra­tion laws, the ex­e­cu­tion of which the States can­not ob­struct or dis­crim­i­nate against,” the law­suit says, cit­ing that 2012 case.

The State De­part­ment also weighed in as part of the law­suit, say­ing that Cal­i­for­nia’s laws are in­ter­fer­ing with the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to get other coun­tries to take back their il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

An­a­lysts dis­agree over the ef­fects of sanc­tu­ary poli­cies.

Some stud­ies have con­cluded that sanc­tu­ary cities are safer than other cities. Im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment ad­vo­cates ar­gue that those con­clu­sions are skewed and draw a cor­re­la­tion be­tween sanc­tu­ar­ies and safety that the data don’t sup­port.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment law­suit is just the lat­est in a run­ning bat­tle over sanc­tu­ary poli­cies.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion last year an­nounced plans to with­hold fed­eral grant money from ju­ris­dic­tions deemed to refuse co­op­er­a­tion with ICE. Cities in Cal­i­for­nia, Penn­syl­va­nia and Illi­nois have won rul­ings lim­it­ing those ef­forts.


Im­mi­gra­tion rights ac­tivists lost a round this week when a fed­eral judge in San Fran­cisco did not im­me­di­ately re­quire the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to award Cal­i­for­nia a fed­eral law en­force­ment grant over con­cerns that the state does not com­ply with im­mi­gra­tion law. U.S. District Judge Wil­liam Or­rick re­jected the state’s re­quest for a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion.


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