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Trump and Sessions Declare War on California

 

Key voices are assessing the Trump Administration’s “War on California.” Ahead of tomorrow’s trip by President Trump to California, the below observers capture key issues at stake:

New York Times op-ed by Cardozo School of Law Professor and immigration legal expert Peter Markowitz explains why the legal justifications for the Trump Administration’s lawsuit against California fall short:

“The department is framing the lawsuit as a natural extension of the Obama administration’s successful challenge of an Arizona law that required state officers to engage in immigration enforcement. The logic is seductively simple: If it was illegal for Arizona to insert itself into federal immigration enforcement, then it is equally illegal for California to do so.

This framing has been so effective that the news media has been repeating the analogy without significant scrutiny. The comparison between the two lawsuits, however, is as flawed as it is simple.

…California and the hundreds of other places across the country with such laws and policies have done nothing whatsoever to actively interfere with federal immigration enforcement efforts. Rather, the defining characteristic of these laws is their passivity. They do not direct state officers to take any steps to interfere with federal enforcement efforts. Instead, they dictate that the local police and state officers simply do not assist in the federal government’s deportation agenda — that they do nothing.

…It is fair to ask whether states should have the power to abstain from federal law enforcement programs that they view as immoral or adverse to their local interests. It is not, however, a new question.

In fact, the question was decisively answered by the Supreme Court in 1997 in a case called Printz v. United States. That case involved a challenge to the federal Brady Act, which required local sheriffs to conduct background checks for gun purchasers. Some sheriffs resisted because they objected to the federal regulation of firearms. The Supreme Court, in a decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, made clear that the sheriffs, and states generally, have a right to abstain from federal law enforcement schemes with which they disagreed.

It is this principle that distinguishes California’s decision to opt out of deportation efforts from Arizona’s decision to opt in.

The Justice Department is correct that the regulation of immigration is a federal matter. That’s why the Supreme Court made clear in the Arizona case that states may not insert themselves into immigration enforcement by directing its officers to arrest people on immigration charges. California, far from inserting itself, has extracted itself from federal immigration enforcement efforts in precisely the same way that the sheriffs in Printz extracted themselves from the federal effort to regulate the purchase of firearms.

…This is precisely the type of legitimate justification for local abstention that the Supreme Court established as a bedrock principle of our federal system of government over two decades ago.”

Writing in Rolling Stone, Jamil Smith’s piece “Jeff Sessions Is Suing California, and I Feel Fine” assesses the hypocrisy of Jeff Sessions’ recent speech embracing Abraham Lincoln, while capturing the stakes of the battle between the Trump Administration and California:

“Jefferson Beauregard Sessions was named after two Confederates, so it was peculiar to hear him talk as if secession was a bad thing. On Tuesday morning, the Attorney General continued his war with California’s leadership, this time admonishing it for refusing to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents collect undocumented immigrants for deportation. Alarmist and hyperbolic rhetoric about immigration has always been this administration’s thing. In that respect, Sessions delivered a tour de force …

… The Department of Justice’s lawsuit affords California leadership the opportunity to make a sorely needed point about what America now is, and is becoming. I don’t enjoy the manufactured drama and outrage that this administration regularly spews forth about “law and order,” even as their President regularly defecates on the rule of law as he sees fit.

But while it surely will cause immigrant families undeserved stress and fright, the Sessions lawsuit allows California more exposure for its resistance to the administration’s efforts to demonize, divide, and dehumanize. Sessions has provided a platform for the state to show that what it is doing to wash its hands of this racist nonsense is both legally defensible and morally unimpeachable. That’s an America that we should want to be a part of – and that, judging by the polls, most of us still are.

California isn’t trying to leave the United States, as Sessions implied. It is trying to preserve what is left of it.”

And in the Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti examines how California has become the epicenter of resistance to the Trump Administration’s extremism on immigration enforcement:

“California and the Trump administration are engaged in an all-out war over immigration enforcement, the president’s signature issue on the campaign trail and in the White House. It is a deeply personal battle in the nation’s most populous and economically powerful state, where 27 percent of the 39 million residents are foreign-born.

 …In San Francisco, Mayor Mark Farrell (D) called Sessions a “moron” and has proposed expanding the budget for public defenders. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg (D) told public radio he would “proudly resist.” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (D), who outraged the White House by warning her city about an impending immigration roundup last month, says she has no regrets.

‘Local governments and state government have stepped up in a way to protect immigrants like never before in my lifetime,’ said Eric Cohen, the 57-year-old executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in the Mission District of San Francisco.

The stakes are high for the administration because if California defies the White House on ‘sanctuary cities,’ then others can, too, jeopardizing President Trump’s main campaign promise to deport many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.”