Judge Upholds Key Parts Of California Sanctuary Policies

The ruling deals a blow to the Trump administration in its effort to crack down on sanctuary policies.
U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez upheld two of California’s sanctuary laws, as well as a key provision of a third,
U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez upheld two of California’s sanctuary laws, as well as a key provision of a third, on Thursday.

A district court judge on Thursday rejected the Justice Department’s request to block two California laws that protect undocumented immigrants, handing a blow to the Trump administration as fierce debate over immigration policy continues to escalate.

U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez wrote in his opinion that SB 54 (known as the sanctuary state law) and AB 103, which requires transparency in the monitoring of detention facilities, as well as the employee-notice provision of AB 450 (the Immigrant Worker Protection Act) are “permissible exercises of California’s sovereign power.”

In a statement, DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley celebrated the “preliminary injunction of AB 450” and said “the Justice Department will continue to seek out and fight unjust policies that threaten public safety.”

In March the DOJ filed a lawsuit challenging all three laws in its ongoing effort to crack down on local sanctuary policies. Until then, the federal government had largely engaged in condemnations and threats, including possibly withholding federal funds and prosecuting public officials.

In the case, the administration argued that California’s sanctuary laws violate the Constitution and federal law. 

Of the three laws, the most prominent and most targeted by the Trump administration is SB 54, which California Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October and which went into effect Jan. 1. Provisions of the law bar local law enforcement officials from telling Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they will release certain individuals and from facilitating their transfer in most cases.

AB 103 is a provision of a budget bill approved last year that allows the state to review federal detention of immigrants in the state.

AB 450, which also went into effect Jan. 1, restricts private employers’ cooperation with federal immigration officials, requiring that businesses notify workers about employment documentation reviews and that immigration officials present a subpoena or warrant to enter workplaces.

Mendez upheld SB 54 and AB 103, but he suspended three provisions of AB 450, including the subpoena requirement.

A coalition of immigrant rights groups known as ICE Out of CA issued a statement on Thursday calling the ruling “overall, a defeat for the President’s hate-filled agenda and escalating abuses of power.”

“At the same time, we disagree with the court’s decision to suspend certain parts of the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, and we will redouble our commitment to defending the rights of all workers, including immigrants,” the coalition wrote.

The activists also noted that private employers may still choose to deny ICE agents entry to a workplace unless they have a warrant and that businesses are protected in doing so under federal law.

This article has been updated with comment from the DOJ.