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Sanctuary State Battle Heads to the 9th Circuit

A military police officer walks past a Border Patrol vehicle next to the secondary U.S.-Mexico border fence. Photo by David Maung

This post originally appeared in the Nov. 9 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, whose office has frequently sued the Trump administration, easily secured his first four-year term in Tuesday’s election.

The former congressman, who was initially appointed AG by Gov. Jerry Brown in late 2016, appears poised to keep locking legal horns with the federal government.

Last week, his office filed a brief with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case featuring the Trump administration’s challenge to three California laws designed to protect unauthorized immigrants.

The U.S. government, which argues the laws improperly interfere with its immigration enforcement work, appealed a federal judge’s July ruling largely siding with the state.

The most prominent of the 2017 statutes at issue is SB 54, the so-called sanctuary state law. It limits the cooperation and information state officials can provide federal immigration authorities.

The Trump administration also is challenging AB 103, which directs the state AG to inspect facilities housing civil immigration detainees, and AB 450, the law requiring an employer to provide employees with notices about federal inspections regarding their legal ability to work.

U.S. District Judge John Mendez of Sacramento sided with California in dismissing the challenges to SB 54 and AB 103. He also upheld the employee notice provision of AB 450, but issued a temporary halt on the state enforcing the portion of the law mandating private employers deny immigration officials access to nonpublic areas of a worksite, or employee records, without a warrant.

Becerra’s filing with the 9th Circuit asserts that all of the aspects of the California laws challenged by the Trump administration are a legal exercise of the state’s regulatory power.

“This authority over immigration matters does not give the federal government any corresponding power to control state or local officials, or to dictate how California uses state resources,” the brief states. “Nor does it divest California of its sovereign authority to, for example, review conditions in detention facilities within its jurisdiction or regulate employment in the state.”

The Trump administration’s reply brief is due Nov. 26. Oral argument has not been scheduled, said Becerra spokeswoman Jennifer Molina.

The U.S. Justice Department filed the case in March under AG Jeff Sessions, who was forced out last week. Time will tell if the DOJ takes a new approach to this case, or others involving California, under Acting AG Matthew Whitaker.

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