California’s three new “sanctuary” laws, challenged in court this week by the Trump administration, face different hurdles and have varying vulnerabilities, legal experts tell the Los Angeles Times reports. Law professors who read the lawsuit filed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions described it as a credible challenge that presents complex legal questions that might wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. “The arguments made by the Justice Department are not at all lightweight arguments,” said Pepperdine law Prof. Douglas Kmiec. “They are quite substantial.” The federal government has wide authority over matters of immigration, and Sessions has charged that California’s new laws usurp or preempt federal rules. The supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution says federal law takes precedence over state laws, and Sessions’ suit accuses California’s new regulations of violating that provision.
Analysts said they expected California would prevail in defending a law that bars state and local law enforcement from voluntarily giving federal immigration authorities information about the release dates of immigrant inmates. Federal judges have decided in favor of cities that limit law enforcement’s cooperation with immigration agents, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government may not commandeer states into becoming the enforcement agents of federal law. UCLA law professor Hiroshi Motomura said the Trump administration was “attacking California laws that do nothing more than require immigration enforcement to respect the U.S. Constitution.” This was settled 200 years ago. States don’t get to do that. Analysts were less certain about the prospects of another state law that makes private employers liable for voluntarily cooperating with immigration authorities. A state can’t act in a way that impedes the achievement of a federal objective,” said University of California Berkeley law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.