President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have a very clear view on immigration. They support cracking down on illegal immigrants, using whatever tools the federal government has at its disposal. California officials, with Governor Jerry Brown at the forefont, have the opposite view. They vow not to cooperate with federal immigration efforts. This has prompted a legal and political showdown in the Golden State.
In March, President Trump traveled to California and attacked the state’s immigration laws, saying, “You have sanctuary cities where you have criminals living in the sanctuary cities.” This occurred shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed suit against California to stop it from enforcing three laws that pertain to immigration.
The first law being challenged by the Trump Administration is a “sanctuary state” statute. This prohibits state and local law enforcement from inquiring about a person’s immigration status when they are arrested or sharing information with federal immigration authorities. The bill also prohibits law enforcement from cooperating with enforcing federal immigration detainers unless someone has been convicted of certain crimes within the past 15 years.
The challenge to this bill is on shaky legal ground, according to many experts. State and local governments have no duty to cooperate with federal law enforcement or enforce federal laws. The Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government cannot pass laws that mandate states do so. To the extent that this bill prohibits state cooperation with federal immigration agencies, then it appears to be able to withstand the Trump Administration challenge.
Attorney General Sessions probably has a better case against the other two laws, however. One of those laws bans private business owners from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement unless the federal authorities have a court order. Business owners that voluntarily provide the federal government with immigration information about employees or access to these employees could face fines of $100,000 under this law. The other law requires the state attorney general to investigate federal law enforcement efforts concerning immigration.
The California officials named in the federal suit, including Gov. Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra, contend that these laws are necessary to protect people who may be in the country illegally but are not harming anyone. The Trump Administration counters that California officials are unlawfully interfering with the federal government’s immigration power.
If California prevails in the suit, it is likely that other states led by Democratic elected officials will enact similar laws. If the Trump Administration wins, it may embolden Republicans to enact laws at the state and federal level to crack down further on illegal immigration.
Do you think that California law enforcement should refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts? Or is the Trump Administration right that California is interfering with federal immigration laws?