Federal Judge Largely Rejects Trump’s Demand To Block California Sanctuary Laws

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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A federal judge on Thursday rejected most of the Trump administration’s bid to immediately block three California sanctuary laws, allowing the state to continue to limit local cooperation with immigration authorities.

U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez denied the Justice Department’s request for an injunction that would halt SB54, a law enacted at the beginning of the year that limits the extent to which state and local agencies can share immigration-related information with federal officials. Mendez, a former President George W. Bush appointee, also declined to grant an injunction against a separate law giving California inspectors greater oversight over local and privately run immigration detention facilities in the state.

The ruling doesn’t foreclose the possibility that the Trump administration could ultimately win its lawsuit against California. However, it does deny the government’s demand that the state stop its enforcing sanctuary laws while the case plays out in court.

In his ruling, Mendez adopted a narrow view of state and local government’s obligations with respect to immigration enforcement, which falls within the purview of the federal government.

“Refusing to help is not the same as impeding,” Mendez wrote in his opinion, according to Politico. “Federal objectives will always be furthered if states offer to assist federal efforts. A state’s decision not to assist in those activities will always make the federal object more difficult to attain than it would be otherwise. Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.”

Though Mendez rejected the government’s request to block two of the laws in question, he did grant an injunction against a third disputed law, AB450, that barred private employers from voluntarily allowing immigration authorities on to their property and from re-verifying the legal work status of employees.

“The preliminary injunction of AB 450 is a major victory for private employers in California who are no longer prevented from cooperating with legitimate enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement. “While we are disappointed that California’s other laws designed to protect criminal aliens were not yet halted, the Justice Department will continue to seek out and fight unjust policies that threaten public safety.”

The Justice Department sued California in March, alleging the three sanctuary laws undermined the federal government’s authority to enforce several federal immigration laws. As part of its argument, the government said a 1996 federal statute prevents states from blocking the sharing of information that would be helpful to immigration authorities, such as inmate release dates or home addresses. (RELATED: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Sessions’ Anti-Sanctuary Lawsuit)

Mendez ruled the federal law only applies to information “strictly pertaining to immigration status” and not other data about immigrants.

California state Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Democrat who helped author SB54, praised Mendez’s ruling in a statement Thursday.

“Today, a federal judge made clear what I’ve known all along, that SB 54, the California Values Act is constitutional and does not conflict with federal law,” de Leon said. “California is under no obligation to assist Trump tear apart families. We cannot stop his mean-spirited immigration policies, but we don’t have to help him, and we won’t.”

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