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Trump v. California

In this corner: Immigration

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Immigration

Border Enforcement
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
On the ropes
California wins!
Trump wins!

President Trump’s proposed southern border wall now has one more barrier in its path: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

This morning, California’s top law enforcement officer announced that he is filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration for alleged violations of state and federal environmental law and the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“The border between the U.S. and Mexico spans some 2,000 miles—the list of laws violated by the President’s administration in order to build his campaign wall is almost as long,” Becerra said at a press conference, overlooking the border fence at a state park in southern San Diego.

Last August, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would be exempting the border wall construction project from a few dozen environmental and land-management regulations to speed up construction.

Other state officials attending today’s press conference included Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, a Democrat from San Diego, San Diego City Council member David Alvarez and Steve Padilla, a councilman for the City of Chula Vista who also sits on the California Coastal Commission.

“If you’re going to be in California and you’re going to talk about the rule of law, well, you damn well better make sure that you protect some of our most precious assets in following that law,” Padilla said.

Becerra insisted the decision to go to court is not politically motivated.

“My personal feeling about what has been done in the past, and what even may be done in the future, isn’t what is at issue here,” he said. “What matters is once this democracy has taken action by instituting certain rules and laws, that we abide by those laws.”

California’s “sanctuary state” bill now has the backing of the governor after the measure’s author agreed to broaden the circumstances under which law enforcement could  cooperate with federal immigration officials.

The bill is now expected to go before the Assembly by the end of the week, the last hurdle before landing on the governor’s desk.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, agreed to accept changes to the bill, expanding the number of crimes committed by undocumented immigrant that would trigger local police and sheriff’s deputies being able to interact with immigration agents. The original bill restricted law enforcement from responding to federal immigration authorities unless the feds’ requests pertained to those serving time in prison or convicted of a violent or serious felony—about 60 types of crimes. The amended version broadens that cooperation to cases in which undocumented immigrants have been convicted of any of some 800 crimes under the Trust Act—from violent felonies to lesser criminal acts.

The state’s Trust Act, approved in 2013, governs how long and when law enforcement agencies could hold an individual at the request of immigration authorities.

The bill, de León said in a statement, “continues to provide landmark protections for our undocumented community and prevents our state and local law enforcement resources from being diverted to tear families apart.  California will protect our communities from the Trump administration’s radical and hateful immigration policy agenda.”

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon earlier this year with supporters of sanctuary bill.

Gov. Brown had publicly expressed his concerns about the bill, saying those who commit significant crimes should not be in the U.S. In a statement today, he said the bill as amended “protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place.”

The amendments to de León’s bill also would permit immigration officers to conduct interviews in jails. It also allows for transfers of individuals to immigration authorities under specific circumstances including the conviction of a crime on the Trust Act list and when the federal agency provides a judicial warrant for an individual.

De León introduced the bill shortly after President Trump took office. The president has made a crackdown on immigration one of his top priorities, promising to go after those in the country illegally and threatening local and state governments that claim sanctuary status and refuse to cooperate fully with federal officials.

Even with the concessions announced Monday, key immigrant advocates say they still support the bill.

The California Sheriff’s Association, however, continues to it despite the amendments, some suggested by the association during negotiations. “Our overarching concern remains that limiting local law enforcement’s ability to communicate and cooperate with federal law enforcement officers endangers public safety,” the association said in a statement. It also contended that the bill would keep local sheriffs from notifying immigration authorities about the pending release of repeat drunk drivers, people who assault peace officers, animal abusers and known criminal gang members arrested for misdemeanor crimes.


California is home to one in four undocumented young people protected by an Obama-era program that the Trump administration just ended—numbers that have prompted state Attorney General Xavier Becerra to announce today that he will file a lawsuit to thwart the president.

Becerra said California will be hurt the most by the decimation of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He added that he would file the legal challenge soon, and that it would be separate from but similar to a challenge filed earlier in the day by 15 states and the District of Columbia. That suit contends that terminating the program is “unconstitutional” because it represents the culmination of President Trump’s efforts to go after those with Mexican roots.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

Yesterday U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration was effectively ending the program in six months. No new applications are being accepted. Current Deferred Action recipients have until October to apply for a renewal. That would give them an additional two years in the program, which provides work permits and protection from deportation.

The Trump administration says it’s up to Congress to determine whether to pass legislation to shield from deportation young immigrants, many of whom call themselves DREAMers after a past unsuccessful attempt to legislate their protection, known as the Dream Act. Some 800,000 people were eligible, because they had been brought to the U.S. illegally before age 16, had lived here for at least five years, were in school, had graduated from high school or were military veterans, and had clean criminal records.

Trump and many Republicans have contended that President Obama overstepped his constitutional authority by using an executive order to create the protection of DACA.

How likely is it that challenges by Becerra and others to retain DACA would prevail in the courts? Some legal experts note that the U.S. Supreme Court last year split 4-to-4 on the issue, leaving in place one injunction against Obama’s immigration action. Assuming that means that four current justices regard Obama’s creation of DACA as unlawful, the deciding vote in a future court contest would be cast by the court’s newest addition: conservative Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch.

The Trump administration has rescinded the Obama-era program that allowed some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to work and avoid deportation.

Today Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the program, which he called unconstitutional, would wind down within six months. He pointed to Congress as the only body that can legitimately help those affected by the decision. Former President Obama created the program by executive order in 2012.

California is home to the largest contingent of youths aided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, with 238,000 of the nation’s 800,000 recipients, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. Response from California Democratic leaders, who support the program partly as a boon to the state economy, was swift.  

The decision is “xenophobic” and a “meek acquiescence” to Sessions, said Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles. Sessions has been a fierce opponent of the program from its inception. “In the coming weeks,” De Leon said in a statement, “the California Senate will work to ensure DACA students can continue to earn income to support their educational dreams.”

It’s unclear what the state Legislature can do in the two weeks left in its 2017 session. But a pending bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, may help DACA students stay in school, even though the state cannot resolve their legal status.

Lara put the bill in motion anticipating that President Trump would cancel the program.

“Ending DACA puts the futures of thousands of people in jeopardy who are going to school and working just as we asked them to,” he said in a statement. “Trump, whose companies continue to import workers from abroad, is a cynical manipulator. Republicans’ unrelenting assault on immigrants, and especially Latinos, is awakening a generation of young Americans to the threat to our country’s diversity and economic future.”

The bill, SB 573, would allow undocumented students to do volunteer service on their campuses to earn grants or reimbursement for their education costs. The bill passed the Senate and is now before the Assembly.

California leaders had been lobbying the administration for weeks to continue the DACA program. Gov. Brown wrote in an August letter to Trump: “To uproot these people from the only country they have known as home is to turn our back on the future … It is cruel and it runs counter to the ideals this country was founded on.”

The state has spent $15 million to help those who are eligible to apply for the program or become naturalized citizens.  The current state budget allocated an additional $45 million for legal help for those facing deportation and other problems related to their immigration status.

In Washington, shortly after Sessions’ announcement, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced the latest version of a federal DREAM Act. It would allow those brought to the U.S. illegally as children a path toward citizenship. A similar bill died in Congress in 2012, leading to DACA’s creation.

Trump was facing increasing pressure to dump the program. Attorneys general in Texas and nine other states had threatened to sue the federal government if the president did not cancel it.

Within the next six months, people with expiring Deferred Action status can apply to renew their permits for another two years.

Another day, another lawsuit over the federal government’s immigration policy.

This morning the state’s top prosecutor, Xavier Becerra, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced that they are filing side-by-side law suits against the Trump administration, an effort to protect federal funding for designated “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear that badge for the federal government to threaten their crime fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said at a San Francisco press conference this morning. “We’re in the public safety business; we’re not in the deportation business.”

These two lawsuits come as a response to an announcement from the federal Department of Justice last July that cities must cooperate with federal immigration authorities in order to receive funding through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grant program. Specifically, cities must grant federal immigration authorities access to local detention facilities and give them 48 hours notice before the release of a suspected undocumented immigrant from local custody.

In a similar vein, Justice Department also sent letters earlier this month to the police chiefs of Stockton and San Bernardino, warning them that funding from a new federal grant program aimed at reducing violent crime could be made conditional on scrapping local sanctuary city policies.

SF City Attorney Press Conference – 8/14/17

Uploaded by SFGovTV on 2017-08-11.

California cities, counties, and state agencies receive over $28 million from the federal government in law enforcement grants.

Today’s announcement follows a similar bit of litigation filed by the City of Chicago earlier this month. In response to that lawsuit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the administration refused to “simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens.”

“So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars,” Sessions said in a statement.

Because the Trump administration is attempting to place restrictions on police officers and sheriff’s deputies, opponents have argued that it amounts to the commandeering of state and local officers by the federal government, a violation of the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

“Immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job,” Herrera said. “Our police and deputies are focused on fighting crime, not breaking up hardworking families.”

While Governor Brown has expressed some skepticism about Senate Bill 54, the so-called “sanctuary state” bill currently before the state Assembly, earlier this month on NBC’s Meet The Press he said that it might be more productive to “resolve this in a judicial form rather than in the rhetoric of politicians talking past one another.”

The battle between California and the Trump administration dates back to the first days of the administration. In late January, the president signed an executive order deeming designated sanctuary jurisdictions “not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” That order has since been successfully held up in court by cities, counties, and states across the country—including California and San Francisco.

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