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Judge Upholds California’s Sanctuary City Laws

— July 6, 2018

On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed demands from the Trump administration to block three of California’s sanctuary city laws.

POLITICO reports that the court allowed the brunt of the legislation to remain intact while ordering some alterations.

Sacramento-based U.S. District Judge John Mendez ‘rejected, for now, the Justice Department’s drive to halt a California law that limits the kinds of immigration-related information state and local law enforcement can share with federal officials.’ Mendez also blocked a request to prevent California officials from being guaranteed certain information about facilities holding immigrant detainees.

Overturning either law would have broad implications for sanctuary cities nationwide, both of which incorporate similar principles into state codes and policy. California—the nation’s most populous state and one if its most immigrant-heavy—has reiterated its commitment to residents, regardless of their citizenship or residency status.

Trump; image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Trump; image by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

Proponents of sanctuary city policies claim that shielding illegal immigrants from routine deportations encourages interaction with law enforcement. Philadelphia claims its low contemporary crime rates are due, in large part, to its recently-implemented sanctuary city laws.

Despite Mendez’s decision to uphold two of the California’s sanctuary laws, he did block parts of the third. Among the portions reversed are mandates preventing private employers from voluntarily cooperating with immigration authorities to recheck the legal status of workers.

Mendez—cited by POLITICO as a George W. Bush appointee—reinforced the rights of states and local governments in deciding when to cooperate with federal immigration officials. He said California, among other things, has a right to refuse its resources to Washington’s use.

“Refusing to help is not the same as impeding,” wrote Mendez. “Federal objectives will always be furthered if states offer to assist federal efforts. A state’s decision not to assist in those activities will always make the federal object more difficult to attain than it would be otherwise. Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.”

Lawyers for the Justice Department had tried arguing that a 1996 federal law should prevent California from ‘blocking disclosure of information helpful to immigration authorities,’ such as detainees’ release dates and their home addresses. However, Mendez said the law can only be applied to records “strictly pertaining to immigration status”—not any and all information states may have on migrants, inside the criminal justice system or without.

California State Sen. Kevin De Leon tied the ruling to a recent outcry on the Trump administration’s family separation policies.

“Today, a federal judge made clear what I’ve known all along, that SB 54, the California Values Act is constitutional and does not conflict with federal law,” said De Leon. “California is under no obligation  to assist Trump tear apart families. We cannot stop his mean-spirited immigration policies, but we don’t have to help him, and we won’t.”


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