Judge Denies US Claim on 2 of 3 California Immigration Laws

SACRAMENTO (AP) — A judge on Monday dismissed the federal government’s claim that U.S. law trumps two California laws intended to protect immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John Mendez follows his decision last week that California was within its rights to pass two of the three so-called sanctuary laws.

He ruled Monday that the federal government could proceed with its attempt to block part of a third California sanctuary law, which prohibits employers from allowing immigration officials on their property without warrants.

Mendez rejected the U.S. government’s argument on two of the laws that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government pre-eminent power to regulate immigration. The Trump administration argued that California is obstructing immigration enforcement efforts.

The twin rulings by Mendez, who was nominated to the federal bench by Republican President George W. Bush, allow California to continue limiting police cooperation with immigration officials and require inspections of detention facilities despite the Trump administration’s lawsuit filed in March.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in a statement, called the decision “a victory for our State’s ability to safeguard the privacy, safety, and constitutional rights of all of our people. Though the Trump Administration may continue to attack a state like California and its ability to make its own laws, we will continue to protect our constitutional authority to protect our residents and the rule of law.”

U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment after normal East Coast business hours.

The lawsuit announced in Sacramento by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is part of the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that he said allows criminals to remain free. California has fought back in court on many of the administration’s plans.

California’s law limiting the sharing of information with federal agents “does not directly conflict” with U.S. law, Mendez wrote in a seven-page decision.

As for the law requiring inspections of detention facilities where immigrants are held, “the Court 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,” Mendez wrote. The law “does not give California a role in determining whether an immigrant should be detained or removed from the country, nor does it place any substantive requirements or burdens on these detention facilities apart from providing access.”

Mendez ruled last week that California cannot enforce the warrants law. Court proceedings on that portion of the law will continue, though both sides could also elect to appeal the judge’s decisions.