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Judge Dismisses Federal Claim Against Two Sanctuary City Laws


A California federal judge on Monday granted a motion to dismiss the federal government’s claims against state laws protecting immigrants.

“The Court concluded the United States is not likely to succeed on the merits of its Supremacy Clause claims against SB 54, AB 103, and the notice requirement provision of AB 450,” wrote U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez.

The court battle is ongoing. The judge ruled the government showed a likelihood of success in its claims against the rest of AB 450 because those provisions covered private employers.

Senate Bill 54 stopped California law enforcement from sharing a person’s release dates and personal information for immigration enforcement purposes. Assembly Bill 103 had the state Attorney General establish a review and reporting requirement to civil immigration detention facilities–the federal government opposed this by arguing this butted up against federal law.

In both cases, Mendez ruled that the provisions did not violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. In the case of SB 54, it doesn’t conflict with federal law. In regard of AB 103, the judge wrote that he “does not find any indication in the cited federal statutes that Congress intended for States to have no oversight over detention facilities operating within their borders.” The law in question didn’t give California power to decide whether an immigrant can be detained or deported “nor does it place any substantive requirements or burdens on these detention facilities apart from providing access.” In short, there was no conflict between this and federal law.

The government can keep pushing some of its claim against AB 450, however. The law prohibits employers from voluntarily letting immigration enforcement officials enter nonpublic areas of the workplace to look at or get their hands on the employer’s employee records. Mendez found the government’s claim plausible. This part of the lawsuit remains live.

He did toss the issue regarding AB 450’s notice requirement. It required employers to tell employees within 72 hours if immigration agencies inspected any employment records, and to convey the results as well.

The federal government attacked this as being “impermissible.” According to them, the state was requiring suspects be warned of federal investigations. This argument failed.

From the ruling [citations removed]:

The Court does not agree with Plaintiff’s characterization of this provision. … The law does no more than extend the notice afforded employers—the primary targets of IRCA enforcement actions—to employees. … Further, because employer liability is based on an employer’s failure to communicate information to its employees, and not on the employer’s choice to “deal with” immigration enforcement, the provision does not violate the intergovernmental immunity doctrine.

[Image via NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images]

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