2019.10.25 – This week, the Trump administration asked the United States Supreme Court to review its long string of defeats in U.S. v California. The administration is attempting to challenge certain sections of three pro-immigrant laws which California passed in 2017, but has experienced major legal setbacks every step of the way. In fact, many key protections in the laws are not being challenged.

The appeal comes months after the Ninth Circuit rejected a request from the Trump administration for a larger panel of judges to hear the case. Previously, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt the Trump administration a serious legal blow in April. The panel entirely upheld California’s “Sanctuary State” law (SB 54), which limits local and state law enforcement from acting as deportation agents. The panel also upheld the vast majority of a “Dignity not Detention” law (AB 103), which requires oversight of immigration jails from the California Attorney General. Finally, the panel maintained a lower court’s ruling regarding a third law, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450). 

In response to the Supreme Court appeal, the steering committee of the ICE Out of California coalition, including Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – California, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and PICO California issued the following statement. The coalition has played a lead role in passing and implementing SB 54, the “Sanctuary State” law, and stronger local policies. 

Today, we are hopeful, determined, and more committed than ever to advancing our values of compassion, common humanity, and equal justice. 

Legally, countless court decisions, from the Supreme Court on down, have made it crystal clear that the federal government cannot seize the resources of cities, counties or states in order to carry out its bidding. 

Morally, we are confident that history is on our side. “Sanctuary” means protecting due process for everyone, including immigrants. It means preventing racial profiling. And it means keeping families and loved ones together in community – not cages. 

Advocates note that prior decisions by conservative Supreme Court justices have found that under the Tenth Amendment, the federal government cannot coerce states into enforcing federal schemes.

Background: In 2017, California passed several laws to protect residents from the Trump administration’s cruel deportation machine. In March 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California to challenge specific sections of three of these pro-immigrant laws. Dozens of local and state governments filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of California’s position, as local communities organized and mobilized.

In July 2018, U.S. District Judge John Mendez, a George W. Bush appointee, denied the Trump administration’s request for an injunction and later threw out most of the federal government’s case. 

About California’s pro-immigrant laws: A detailed summary of the Ninth Circuit ruling and the provisions of each of the three laws the Trump administration is challenging is available here. Again, many core provisions of SB 54 and AB 103 are not being challenged at all. 

SB 54 (de León), the “Sanctuary State” law or the California Values Act, sets a minimum standard across the state to limit local and state law enforcement from acting as deportation agents. “Sanctuary” policies like the CA Values Act have successfully reduced deportations. Polling has found a solid majority of California voters support the “sanctuary state” law, while anti-immigrant attacks on the law backfired significantly 

AB 103, a “Dignity not Detention” law, requires the California Attorney General to monitor all facilities in the state, which have come under increasing scrutiny for serious abuses, and prohibiting the expansion of detention facilities operated by local governments. Profits of private prison companies have skyrocketed under the Trump administration.

AB 450 (Chiu), the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, places various requirements on public and private employers in handling immigration worksite enforcement actions.