U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In summary

The U.S. Justice Department alleges that California’s immigrant-friendly policies violate the U.S. Constitution by hampering enforcement of federal laws.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has filed a lawsuit against California over immigrant-friendly laws that push back on immigration enforcement and detention by the federal government.

The lawsuit alleges that California is in violation of the U.S. Constitution because of three of its “sanctuary” laws, which it says obstruct enforcement of federal immigration law and impact public safety, according to national news sources.

Sessions is scheduled to announce the move Wednesday morning at a yearly state law-enforcement event.

The three laws the Department of Justice is asking the courts to strike down are AB 450, which requires employers to keep information about their employees private without a court order; AB 103, which mandates inspections for immigration detention facilities in the state, and SB 54, the law that limits interaction between local law enforcement and federal authorities. All took effect this year.

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The best known of the three measures prohibits local law enforcers from questioning people about their immigration status during regular interactions and bans some detentions requested by federal authorities. It does allow state officials to cooperate with federal agents in situations where deportation is required for those who have committed up to 800 serious crimes.

On Tuesday evening, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded to the lawsuit, saying “state law is in concert with federal law.”

He pointed out that state officials do often work with federal law enforcers on drug, gang and human-trafficking crimes, and that will continue.

“What we won’t do is change from being focused on public safety,” he said. “We are in the business of public safety, not of deportation.”

He argues that state and local jurisdictions have a right to determine their own public-safety policies, and it works best when they are “focusing their time as law enforcement officials and their resources on combating dangerous criminals rather than on immigration enforcement.”

Becerra said he and his office will defend the state against the lawsuit, calling it a “B-movie” he has seen before.

“No matter what happens in Washington, California will stay the course and enforce all our laws and protect all our people. That’s how we keep our community safe here in California,” he said.

Governor Jerry Brown responded to reports of the lawsuit with a statement: “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”

When Brown signed SB 54 into law, he issued a statement that said, “This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way. They are free to use their own considerable resources to enforce federal immigration law in California.”

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Elizabeth Aguilera

Elizabeth Aguilera is an award-winning multi-media journalist who covers health and social services for CALmatters. She joined CALmatters from Southern California Public Radio/KPCC 89.3 where she produced...