Ninth Circuit Rejects Federal Government’s Challenge to California’s “Sanctuary State” Laws

This week the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision affirming the lower court’s decision upholding three California laws against a challenge by the federal government. The federal government challenged the three laws, which all pertain to the state’s status as a “sanctuary” state, on the grounds that they are preempted by federal law and that they violate a doctrine known as intergovernmental immunity.

Senate Bill 54 restricts state and local officials from sharing with federal agents information about immigrants within the state. Assembly Bill 103 would require the state attorney general to inspect any facility in the state where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained immigrants pending their immigration court dates or deportation. Assembly Bill 450 prohibits private employers from cooperating with ICE raids and audits unless such cooperation is mandated by a court order or a specific federal law. This third law also requires employers to inform employees of any federal immigration-related inspections of employment records.

The Ninth Circuit upheld the majority of these laws, striking down only a portion of Assembly Bill 103 as impermissibly burdening the federal government under the intergovernmental immunity doctrine. Notably, the Ninth Circuit judge who authored the opinion is a Republican-appointed judge, reinforcing Chief Justice Roberts’s rebuke to the president that “[w]e do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.”

Additional Reading

United States v. California, No. 18-16496 (9th Cir. Apr. 18, 2019)

Federal Appellate Court Rules Against Trump Administration on Most Issues in California “Sanctuary State” Case, Ilya Somin, The Volokh Conspiracy, April 18, 2019

A Guided Tour Through the United States v. California Lawsuit Challenging Some of California’s “Sanctuary” Policies, Vikram David Amar, Verdict, June 1, 2019