California cities are bound by a state sanctuary law which brazenly violates federal immigration law
California Senate Bill 54 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October 2017, creating a form of sanctuary for illegal aliens from law enforcement authorities.
SB-54 includes the ‘California Values Act’, which prohibits state and local police from inquiring into any individual’s immigration status, from detaining any person in service of an ICE ‘hold’ request, and from providing ICE with information regarding a detained individual’s release date. Exceptions are made for cases where people have been charged with serious crimes.
Only one city in California has challenged the law in court; that is the seaside community of Huntington Beach in Orange County.
In September 2018, an Orange County judge ruled in favor of Huntington Beach, saying the law violated the city’s authority to regulate their own police department, under the city charter. This ruling, if upheld, would allow California’s 121 charter cities to exempt themselves from the requirements of SB-54.
On January 10, 2020, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District reversed that decision in a 3-0 ruling, saying the California Values Act is indeed binding on charter cities. The Court of Appeal argued that what they consider to be the constitutional rights of what they call immigrants outweigh local interests, because they are “a matter of paramount statewide concern.”
California's sanctuary policies openly violate federal immigration law
In March 2018, the U.S. Justice Department sued California over its policies preventing state and local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with U.S. Department of Homeland Security immigration officials.
The Justice Department sought a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the California Senate Bill 54, citing Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause. Under the Supremacy Clause, federal law overrides state law:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
At issue was whether sanctuary jurisdictions violate a federal law requiring them to share information about people they arrest with federal immigration authorities. 8 U.S. Code § 1373, Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service makes this requirement indisputably clear:
Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.
The U.S. Justice Department focused specifically on the ‘California Values Act’ prohibition forbidding police and sheriff’s offices from notifying federal immigration agents of the upcoming release dates of detained illegal aliens. These notifications give U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) a chance to arrest the aliens for immigration violations, before they are released from custody for whatever else they allegedly did.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that “information regarding … immigration status” includes their release date from prison, therefore state and local agencies cannot be restricted from communicating this information to ICE.
In July 2018, The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California upheld California's sanctuary laws, denying the Justice Department request for a preliminary injunction. In a 60-page ruling, U.S. District Judge John Mendez, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote:
The court disagrees and instead finds that California’s decision not to assist federal immigration enforcement in its endeavors is not an ‘obstacle’ to that enforcement effort … Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.
That is wrong: ICE knows that the person is in the country illegally, knows where they are, and wants to come and get him. They want to send an email to the county sheriff asking when the release date is. The county sheriff would respond and ICE agents would arrive on the release date and arrest the criminal illegal alien.
California has created an obstacle in the form of legislation prohibiting state personnel from communicating information to federal immigration authorities. There was a clear line of communication between ICE and the sheriff's office, and California has created an obstacle that disrupts the line of communication, by intent.