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California State Law vs. Federal Law: Who Will Win?

The Department of Justice recently decided to file a lawsuit against three California immigration laws they claimed interfere with the enforcement of federal immigration law. Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, claimed he would go after their “radical” laws and sanctuary cities because it was now a public safety issue and direct threat to the sovereignty of the federal government. He has gone after their immigration laws before, but this is the first time real action is being taken.

The fundamental question is now over who has the supreme law of the land. Does California get to create their own immigration laws that contradict the federal government? The DOJ has encountered this situation before with the transgender bathroom laws in North Carolina and in other states.

The sanctuary laws were created during the Obama Administration, but have not taken into effect until this year. In one of them in, SB54, police are prohibited from notifying federal agents that an immigrant will be released from custody. It also prohibits jails from holding immigrants for federal agents (specifically ICE agents) and doesn’t allow police to question immigrants about their legal status. The lawsuit that was filed states that this law and others like it prohibit even the most basic cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents.

Another law that was challenged prohibits private employers from allowing immigration workplace raids unless they have a judicial warrant. Finally, the third law bars cities and counties from signing contracts with the federal government in order to house immigration detainees in local jails. The DOJ has attempted to withhold federal funds from the state for these actions, but the district courts have repeatedly ruled against the decision. The U.S. District Judge William Orrick III of San Francisco did give the DOJ a partial victory by allowing them to “try” to prove that California immigration laws interfered with the enforcement of federal law.

The presence of ICE in California has turned into a widely publicized situation. Instead of simply being able to do their job and enforce the law, the ICE agents, and the businesses that comply with their efforts to remove illegal immigrants are ostracized. Even worse, cites are now deciding to prioritize the illegal non-citizens over the ones that legally reside there. When the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf, heard that ICE was moving in for a raid, she decided to alert the immigrant communities of the impending operation. While many on the Left cheered and praised her “courage” and “bravery”, ICE was not thrilled.

ICE Deputy Director, Thomas Homan, said that her efforts to protect the community were counterproductive due to there being more than 800 illegal immigrants with criminal records in the area. The warning enabled ICE only to arrest around 150 criminals. Once again, while this was occurring, the ACLU chapter of Northern California framed the raids as “intimidating” and “frightening” for the immigrant communities.

The governor of California, Jerry Brown, and the Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, are adamantly waging war with the federal government over the supremacy of their state laws over the federal laws. Brown believes that California has the right to determine their own immigration policy and protect the large community of illegal immigrants that are living in their state. If they do have the right to protect murderers, sex offenders, and rapists, from being arrested and deported by federal immigration agencies, then other states have the same right to do the opposite.

However, states such as Arizona would be extremely offended by the policies set forth by California. It is impossible for California to guarantee that no illegal immigrant will ever cross the border into Arizona and commit a crime. The same goes for New Mexico, Oregon, Nevada, and other surrounding states. It is for this reason, that the Supreme Court determined that immigration law needed to be set by the federal government alone. It is impractical to have 50 different sets of immigration policies.

Secession has been a popular topic when it comes to California. Both conservatives that are upset with the state’s policies and the ones that support the community of illegal immigrants have talking about seceding from the Union. The rhetoric and action from the state government would lead some to believe that California would not rule out such a proposal. The grave of Abraham Lincoln and many others was dug because of their dedication to preserving the Union. Secession would be practically impossible and should not even be an option. They need to decide if they will recognize the supremacy of federal law over their own intrusive state law. Even more seriously, California needs to decide if they will put the lives of illegal immigrants above the lives of their own citizens.

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