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Feds and California Face Off on Immigration

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March 8, 2018

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Sacramento this week to announce that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against the State of California claiming some of its new immigration laws violate the U.S. Constitution.

The DOJ suit alleges that three recently passed state laws – SB 54, AB 450, and AB 103 – hinder enforcement of federal immigration law and endanger federal agents.  California officials counter that the laws create safer communities by eliminating any hesitation undocumented people may feel about involvement with law enforcement for fear of deportation.

SB 54 the “California Values Act” in sets forth how state and local authorities interact with immigration authorities. Last year, the California Bishops released a statement supporting SB 54 and citing its goal, “to address this situation directly as it grapples with the injustice of indiscriminate deportations while assuring public safety for all our families and neighborhoods.”

AB 450, the “Immigrant Worker Protection Act,” forbids private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration enforcement at the workplace.

AB 103 seeks to regulate contract detention facilities used to hold federal immigration detainees.

The California Catholic Conference did not take positions on either AB 450 or AB 103.

The Trump Administration has been very aggressive towards sanctuary cities. In January 2017, it issued Executive Order 13768 on interior enforcement, which contained a broad interpretation of the ability of the federal government to punish sanctuary cities and deny them federal funding.  And in July 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that cities and states would only be eligible to receive certain grants from the Justice Department if they follow specific requirements, including certifying compliance with federal immigration law.

Subsequently, lawsuits in Northern California, Chicago, and Pennsylvania challenged the Executive Order or the Administration’s related attempts to deny federal funding to localities deemed “sanctuary jurisdictions.” That litigation remains ongoing.