US Justice Dept. sues California over 'sanctuary' laws

Posted March 07, 2018

The Justice Department is suing California and two top state officials, accusing them of interfering with federal immigration efforts by passing and enforcing state laws that hinder USA operations against undocumented people.

It was announced Tuesday morning that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be in Sacramento on Wednesday morning to make a major announcement on the issue of giving sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday night bashed the Trump administration's plans to sue his state over its immigration laws, calling it a "political stunt".

He says recent laws enacted by the state prevent federal agencies from following through on the Trump administration's immigration policies.

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The DOJ suit will also target a law called AB 450 that went into effect January 1 and restricts private employers' ability to cooperate with federal immigration officials, including by requiring a subpoena or warrant to enter workplaces and by notifying workers about reviews of employment documentation.

The announcement comes on the heels of the Kate Steinle verdict, where Steinle was allegedly shot dead by an illegal immigrant, a repeat felon living in what was one of 35 communities that are considered "sanctuary cities".

The complaint names state laws AB 450, SB 54 and AB 103 and alleges that each was created to impede existing immigration laws.

The raids have become a hot button issue particularly with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf triggering a firestorm of controversy in late February when she warned residents of impending ICE raids just hours before they were set to begin.

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The Justice Department lawsuit will cite a provision of the U.S. Constitution known as the "Supremacy Clause", under which federal laws trump state laws.

"At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America", Brown said on Twitter, adding: Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don't work here. SAD! It also prohibits local officials from transferring those prisoners to federal custody.

Brown blasted back at Sessions, who has been a key enforcer of the Trump administration's immigration crackdown. None of the groups favored the state law restricting cooperation with immigration officials, but only the California State Sheriffs' Association was actively opposed and some individual officials voiced support. Many state and local officials in California say the administration's stepped-up deportation efforts are making communities less safe and undermining local economies. This review applies only to facilities with civil immigration detainees.

"Our duty at the Department of Homeland Security is to enforce and uphold the nation's security laws as passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President", Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.

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Another case in San Francisco argues that the Justice Department's efforts to cut off funding rests on a flawed interpretation of federal immigration law and tramples California's right to enforce its own laws as it sees fit. The suit includes a declaration from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan, who said that the inability of ICE officers to go to local lockups to pick up immigrants who have been detained by local police agencies forces them to hunt down suspects in more risky settings.