The Department of Justice will file suit against California over three state statutes that federal officials say interfere with their immigration authority.
The lawsuit combats California’s “sanctuary state” laws that shield immigrants from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday at a California Peace Officers’ Association event in Sacramento, the California capital.
“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Sessions says in prepared remarks for the event. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe that we are going to win.”
The lawsuit is the latest move under the Trump administration to crack down on sanctuary cities. Under Trump, DOJ has tried a mix of political and financial pressure against sanctuary cities, threatening to cut off federal law enforcement grants unless cities agree to identify and hold suspected immigration offenders.
The suit is coming now because California has just passed through the department’s review process, officials said. Other cities and states with sanctuary laws are still under review. The 23 sanctuary cities that were hit with a subpoena by Sessions have responded and are being reviewed on a rolling basis, officials said.
California’s laws are being addressed because they also are new, were widely seen in the media and go farther than other states’ laws, officials said.
The complaint names state laws AB 450, SB 54 and AB 103 and alleges that each was created to impede existing immigration laws.
• AB 450 prohibits private employers from cooperating with federal immigration officials and requires that private employers notify employees in advance of a potential worksite enforcement inspection. DOJ claims that this forces California employers to be caught between state and federal law. Business owners could be fined $2,000 to $10,000 for failing to comply with AB 450.
• SB 54 prevents local law enforcement from providing information to federal authorities about the release date of undocumented immigrants who are in their custody and bans the transfer of these criminal immigrants to federal custody. This breaks federal law that pertains to communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, DOJ officials said.
• AB 103 imposes a state-run inspection and review of the federal detention of immigrants held in facilities pursuant to federal contracts and includes a review of immigration processes and the circumstances in which immigrants were apprehended. This review applies only to facilities with civil immigration detainees. The law seeks to regulate federal immigration detention, according to the complaint, which is not allowed under the Constitution.
“Our duty at the Department of Homeland Security is to enforce and uphold the nation’s security laws as passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by the President,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. “California has chosen to purposefully contradict the will and responsibility of the Congress to to protect our homeland.”
DOJ cites the 1974 Supreme Court case Arizona v. United States as precedent for their case. In that case, the court ruled that only parts of Arizona’s immigration law would be allowed to take effect.