On March 6, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to oppose state laws in California that seriously restrict cooperation on the part of local law enforcement, and employers, to cooperate with federal immigration agencies. Titled U.S. v. California, the lawsuit asserts that three California state laws, “The California Values Act” (SB54), “The Immigrant Worker Protection Act” (AB450), and Assembly Bill 103 (AB103) are unconstitutional obstructions to the federal government’s enforcement of immigration laws.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is an advocacy law firm that supports the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform, filed a motion and brief in support of the federal lawsuit, thus taking aim at SB54 and AB450 on behalf of the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC), and the group Fight Sanctuary State. Filed on Friday, the brief argues that SB54 and AB450 directly interfere with federal enforcement of immigration law, according to IRLI, “even in ways that invite armed confrontations between state and federal officers.”
IRLI argues that authority to pass these laws is not reserved to the states in the Tenth Amendment, and that SB54, in which California decides for itself which categories of aliens get to stay in the United States, “usurps the federal government’s exclusive authority over foreign relations”.
A separate brief filed by IRLI addresses all three state laws on behalf of a coalition of California municipalities and elected officials. These include: the cities of Aliso Viejo, Escondido, Fountain Valley, Hesperia, Mission Viejo, Yorba Linda, and U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), Hon. Mayor Mike Spence of West Covina, Hon. Mayor David Herrington of Aliso Viejo, Hon. Mayor Jim Desmond of San Marcos, Hon. Vice-Mayor Rebecca Jones of San Marcos, and Hon. Council Member Ryan A. Vienna of San Dimas.
According to an IRLI press release, “These municipalities and officials have grave concerns that the challenged state laws not only violate federal supremacy, but will make cities and officials criminally liable.” IRLI argues that AB450 and SB54 restrict the “ability of local governments and private businesses to cooperate with federal immigration officers” and “compel them to commit the federal crime of concealing, harboring, or shielding illegal aliens.” The IRLI brief also argues that the state of California cannot prohibit constitutionally-protected speech, including contacting and working with governmental enforcement authorities.
IRLI executive director Dale L. Wilcox was quoted as saying, “Elected officials in California are free to name their bills ‘The California Values Act’ and the like, but the federal government and the Constitution speak for Californians on matters of immigration.” Wilcox said, “There is ample legal precedent in this area, and it clearly supports the federal government’s position. This is a textbook application of the Supremacy Clause,” Wilcox continued, “and laws like SB54 and AB450 are not only flagrantly unconstitutional but extremely dangerous – to both the safety of the American people and the integrity of our federal republic.”
The case is U.S. v. California, No. 18-490 (U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California).
City councils in Aliso Viejo, Huntington Beach, and Mission Viejo have all voted to support Orange County council's attempts to join the federal government's legal challenge. Also, the Los Alamitos City Council has voted to "opt out" of the state law. Fox News Channel’s Neil Caputo recently asked Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel whether the governor of California and the mayor of Oakland (who warned illegal aliens lsat month of a prospective immigration enforcement raid) are hurting the state, Steele answered “Oh my God. The mayor of Oakland tells everyone that this is racist. That has nothing to do with it. We don’t want any criminals walking on the street.” A Republican, Steel is an American citizen who was born to Korean parents in South Korea.
In an extensive interview with Spero News, IRLI Director of Litigation Christopher J. Hajec said that the “rule of law” is at issue in California. He argued that the “sanctuary” laws passed by the state of California means that the Golden State is essentially in “rebellion” against the United States. Moreover, Hajec said that the First Amendment rights of police and citizens to interact with law enforcement are being infringed by the state laws in question. He said, "You have a right to interact with police. It is your right under the First Amendment."
“They’re really acts of rebellion against federal law. The way they are written, they would make local officers get into physical, armed confrontations with ICE [federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” Hajec said. He noted that the California laws prohibit the transfer of immigrants from state or local custody to federal immigration officers. “They would have to physically block ICE, and perhaps arrest the federal officers for trying to assume custody. But all the ICE officer is doing is his duty to enforce federal law. The Constitution solved that problem. The Constitution has a supremacy clause. They’re supposed to yield to federal law.”
Hajec addressed the concerns of open-borders advocates by saying they should consider how they would feel if roles were reversed with regard to states resisting federal enforcement of immigration law. “What if the federal government decided to have a very open immigration policy -- even more open than ours is now -- and the states didn’t like that and tried to restrict immigration. The state would not be allowed to do that. It is very much in the Constitution that it [immigration] is a federal matter. Progressives and open-borders folks would be the first jumping up to talk about the supremacy clause.”
Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution establishes that Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, are the supreme law of the land. This “supremacy clause” provides, for example, that state courts are bound by the supreme law: the federal Constitution. When there is a conflict between federal and state law, the federal law must be applied. State constitutions are subordinate to federal law also. Therefore, certain federal acts must take priority over any state acts that conflict with federal law.
Here follows the supremacy clause in question:
“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.