SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Attorneys for the state of California lobbied a federal judge Wednesday to move the federal government’s lawsuit over the state’s sanctuary policies from Sacramento to San Francisco, to consolidate the case with others sharing similar legal questions.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra requested the Trump administration’s lawsuit, which attacks the legality of three state laws barring state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement officers, be transferred in a 16-page motion.
“Simply put, both this case and the prior-filed Northern District case turn on the interplay between the federal government’s power over immigration and the states’ police powers under the 10th Amendment,” Becerra wrote in the transfer request. “To prevent the possibility of inconsistent judgments concerning the same parties on the same issues, and to preserve judicial economy, this case should be transferred to the Northern District of California.”
The case Becerra refers to is a lawsuit filed jointly by San Francisco and Santa Clara County, which claim U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ threat to withhold federal grants and other funds from sanctuary cities and counties is a violation of the 10th Amendment, which covers the principles of federalism and states’ rights.
The Sacramento case filed by Sessions, who travelled to California to announce its filing, takes issue with Senate Bill 54 signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017. Sessions says the law illegally interferes with the federal government’s supremacy on matters of immigration enforcement.
Becerra says that since both lawsuits deal with the balance and interplay between federal rules and state rights as it relates to immigration enforcement, the cases should be consolidated.
Sessions is expected to oppose the transfer.
Conservative critics deride the move as a legal gambit to insure the case is heard in front of liberal judges.
U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick III, a Barack Obama appointee, presides over the San Francisco lawsuit relating to sanctuary policies. He granted a preliminary injunction barring the Trump administration from implementing an executive order that withholds funds from jurisdictions with sanctuary policies.
Supporters of sanctuary policies say it is important for local and state law enforcement officials to remain independent of federal immigration so that undocumented workers feel safe in reporting crimes.
Becerra has repeatedly said California’s sanctuary laws don’t prevent federal officials from enforcing immigration rules, but simply carve out how state and local officials should conduct themselves parallel to that enforcement – within the state’s purview as delineated by the 10th Amendment.
Sessions, on the other hand, says preventing state and local law enforcement from assisting endangers federal immigration enforcement officers and encourages disrespect for the rule of law.
“A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law and creates an open borders system,” Sessions said during an address to police officials in Sacramento last week.
U.S. District Judge John Mendez, a George W. Bush appointee, presides over the federal government’s suit in Sacramento. He promised to rule on the transfer request promptly.