By Heather Pearson
On March 6, the Trump Administration escalated its fight against sanctuary cities by filing a lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws.
The United States Justice Department sued Governor Jerry Brown, attorney general Xavier Becerra and the state of California. Stating that California’s recent sanctuary city laws make it impossible for federal immigration employees to deport individuals who are undocumented. The Justice Department is asking for a judge to block these laws as unconstitutional.
From travel bans against Muslim-majority countries to attacks upon the DREAM act, this lawsuit is the latest in the Trump administration’s attempts to fight immigration within the United States. And California has been one of the most outspoken and strongest adversaries to Trump’s immigration stance.
The sanctuary laws passed in California last year attempt to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, restricting the means and times when federal immigration agents can work with local officers. In condemnation of these laws, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have threatened to reduce funding that cities and states receive if they act as sanctuary cities. The Justice Department has also required proof that local governments are not keeping immigration information from federal agents, and have threatened politicians with criminal charges if they implement sanctuary city laws and regulations.
This lawsuit is the first lawsuit between the federal government and local government over immigration policy.
“The administration is just angry that a state has stood up to them — one that embraces diversity and inclusivity and is the sixth-largest economy in the world thanks to the hard-working immigrants who want to become American citizens,” stated Kevin De León, leader of the California State Senate, to the New York Times.
The Justice Department is suing over three specific laws. One, the California Values Act, limits local law enforcement from sharing immigration information with federal officers unless the individual in question has been convicted of serious crimes. The Immigrant Worker Protection Act makes it illegal for businesses to share employee immigration information to federal agents unless the requestor has a court order or subpoena. Additionally, California has prohibited the establishment of any new detention centers within the state, and has brought all current centers under state, rather than federal, control. Several local governments have also taken measures to protect immigrants without documentation.
California’s attorney general Becerra states that he is entirely confident that they will win the suit, especially as the state has won others against the Trump administration previously.
“In California, our state laws work in concert with federal law,” he reported to the NY Times. “Our teams work together to go after drug dealers and go after gang violence. What we won’t do is change from being focused on public safety. We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation.”
Oregon has also faced threat from the Department of Justice due its immigration laws. As the oldest and one of the most ardent proponents of sanctuary laws, for over three decades Oregon has had a state law prohibiting local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials. In a statement to the Statesman Journal, Salem’s Chief of Police Jerry Moore confirmed that “there is a state law that says we don’t enforce immigration laws and that’s how we’ve done business for as long as we can remember.”
As the proceedings of this lawsuit continue, both those in favor and against sanctuary laws in California, Oregon and beyond wait to see the future of sanctuary cities revealed.