Sanctuary State in the Crosshairs

Press Releases

September 26, 2018

IRLI plays key role in suit that could end sanctuary laws in America

WASHINGTON—The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) continued its battle this week against California’s dangerous and unconstitutional sanctuary laws by filing two friend-of-the-court briefs with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the federal government’s lawsuit against these unlawful enactments.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to stop California’s defiance of federal immigration law. In 2017 the state doubled-down on its sanctuary status by enacting laws that restrict the ability of local law enforcement agents to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The lawsuit, titled U.S. v. California, claims that three California state laws, “The California Values Act” (SB54), “The Immigrant Worker Protection Act” (AB450), and Assembly Bill 103 (AB103) unconstitutionally obstruct the federal government’s ability to enforce immigration laws. In July, the U.S. district court preliminarily enjoined only part of AB450, leaving all other aspects of the challenged laws in place. IRLI challenges this erroneous decision in its two friend-of-the-court briefs.

In its first brief, filed on behalf of the National Sheriffs’ Association, the National Police Association, Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime, and the citizen group Fight Sanctuary State, IRLI clearly explains how California’s key sanctuary provisions interfere with federal enforcement of immigration law, and thus violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Many jurisdictions and law enforcement officers in California wish to help that enforcement, and have helped in the past, but SB54 purports to outlaw such assistance. This clamping down on assistance the federal government would otherwise receive is an immense obstacle to immigration law enforcement in California, and was meant to be just that. Even worse, SB54 invites armed confrontations between state and federal officers whenever federal officers attempt to assume custody of a criminal alien held by the state. IRLI also explains how SB54, in which California decides for itself which categories of aliens get to stay in the United States, usurps the federal government’s exclusive authority over foreign relations.

In its second brief, filed on behalf of a coalition of California municipalities and elected officials, IRLI addresses all three state laws. These municipalities and officials have serious concerns that the challenged state laws violate the First Amendment rights of law-enforcement officers to cooperate with the federal government, and also force officers to commit the federal crime of shielding illegal aliens from detection. The brief also shows how the district court erred by presuming that the challenged laws do not violate the Supremacy Clause, and how the federal law prohibiting the restriction of inter-governmental communication regarding immigration status is a “necessary and proper” exercise of congressional authority in enforcing the prohibition against shielding illegal aliens.

“Not only are California’s sanctuary laws clear violations of the Supremacy Clause, but they pose real threats to the safety and security of the American people,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “We hope the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals puts the law above politics and enjoins California’s unconstitutional statutes. If not, we are prepared to fight until the U.S. Supreme Court does it for them. If and when that happens, sanctuary policies will be finished nationwide.”

The case is U.S. v. California, No. 18-16496 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit).

For additional information, contact: Brian Lonergan • 202-232-5590 • [email protected]

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