Justice Department Sues California Over Sanctuary Immigration Laws

The Trump administration and California are finding themselves set for a showdown. Late on Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of California, alleging that it violated the Constitution with a collection of laws that protect illegal immigrants.

Sued were California, Governor Jerry Brown and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra over three state laws passed in recent months that the Justice Department claims intentionally obstruct enforcement of federal immigration law and harm public safety.

The Department is asking a federal judge to block the laws, which include:

  • Assembly Bill 450: prohibits private employers from giving immigration officials access to workplaces or documents for enforcement without a court order;
  • Assembly Bill 103: created a state inspection system for immigration detention facilities;
  • Senate Bill 54: limits what state and local law enforcement authorities can communicate about some suspects and how they can transfer such people to federal custody.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be in Sacramento on Wednesday to make the announcement at a law enforcement event. In prepared remarks, he planned to say: “The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you. I believe that we are going to win.”

Both Sessions and Trump have repeatedly threatened to stop all federal funding to sanctuary cities, targeting 23 jurisdictions from San Francisco to Chicago and New York. They argue that such policies ignore federal laws and protect criminals from deportation. Tensions between California and the Trump administration recently flared again after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf publicly warned residents of an impending ICE operation. The Justice Department said that it was also investigating whether her actions warranted obstruction of justice charges.

In response to the news of the lawsuit, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave the Justice Department her support: “California has chosen to purposefully contradict the will and responsibility of the Congress to protect our homeland. I appreciate the efforts of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to uphold the rule of law and protect American communities.”

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