Your conservative Republicans sure do love them some States’ Rights, except of course when states decide maybe they don’t want to go along with the New Cruelty. That’s why Attorney General Jeff Sessions (vomit!) has filed a federal lawsuit to block implementation of three new California laws intended to limit the state’s cooperation with federal Deport Everyone policies. The laws were among several passed by California last year in reaction to Trump administration efforts to round up and deport every undocumented immigrant ICE can get its hands on; the Justice Department lawsuit claims that the state laws violate the constitutional principle of federal supremacy. We’re pretty sure that’s not the only supremacy Sessions is hot to enforce.
In the kind of twist that irony fans can appreciate, the new lawsuit is loosely based on the Obama administration’s 2010 lawsuit against Arizona, which argued the state’s “Your Papers Please” law, SB 1070, usurped the federal government’s duty to set and enforce immigration law.
The three California laws went into effect January 1, and we’ll let Politico do the summarizing for you:
One California law, SB 54, prohibits state and local officials from sharing information with immigration authorities under certain circumstances and also bars transfers of certain immigrants to federal custody. The suit argues that this law is not only unconstitutional, but also violates a specific federal statute on such information sharing.
Another of the state’s measures, AB 450, forbids private employers from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement at the workplace.
The third law, AB 103, seeks to regulate contract detention facilities used to hold federal immigration prisoners.
California has argued that its laws don’t seek to override federal law, but to ensure that the state complies with federal law enforcement only to the minimal degree necessary under federal authority. If ICE wants to scoop people up in immigration raids, that’s their business, says California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, but that doesn’t give DOJ the power to enlist California law enforcement agencies or private California businesses in helping them. He also notes that, as a law enforcement matter, undocumented immigrants are far more likely to report crimes and cooperate with investigations if they’re not terrified of being scooped up and deported for coming forward (a problem that has impeded law enforcement efforts against MS-13 elsewhere in the country, not incidentally).
While Becerra told reporters yesterday he hadn’t examined the federal lawsuit in detail, he rejected the suit’s central assertion that California is trying to block the enforcement of federal law:
separating parents and children in immigration detention and deporting parents whose spouses and children are citizens, said he wasn’t about to let ICE “rip children from the arms of their mothers”:
“We’re following the Constitution and federal law,” the state attorney general said in a conference call with reporters. “We’re doing nothing to intrude in the work of the federal government to do immigration enforcement. We recognize and respect that the federal government has authority over immigration enforcement.”
“If U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is suing California because we refuse to help the Trump administration tear apart honest, hard-working families, I say, ‘Bring it on,’” he told POLITICO. “Based on the U.S. Department of Justice’s track record, I like our odds.”
Sessions, incredibly enough, tried to use language from the Civil Rights Movement to frame the DOJ’s efforts to force states to use their own law enforcement resources to enforce the Trump administration’s agenda. In a speech to law enforcement officials in Sacramento, Sessions compared his lawsuit against California to the Civil War’s defeat of secession and the federal government’s intervention against Southern states that refused to enforce federal civil rights and voting laws in the ’60s:
“There is no nullification. There is no secession,” Sessions told the local law enforcement officers. “Federal law is the supreme law of the land. I would invite any doubters to Gettysburg, and to the graves of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln.”
Huh! We’d be inclined to think California is acting a lot more like Northerners who refused to go along with the Fugitive Slave Act — but, as everyone knows, liberals have no respect for the tender mercies of federal agents who simply want to tear a few million families apart for the sake of Enforcing The Law. Before you know it, Ol’ Jefferson Beauregard will be comparing himself to Rosa Parks. He may have a little difficulty pulling that off, though, since he’s the one deploying the helmeted troopers and the police dogs.
We tend to be suspicious of helmeted troopers and police dogs for some reason.