Judge Denies DOJ Suit on Most of California Immigration Laws

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) –Delivering another key victory for California, a federal judge on Monday dismissed the heart of the Trump administration’s lawsuit against three 2017 state immigration laws.

U.S. District Judge John Mendez dismissed claims against Senate Bill 54, often referred to as the Sanctuary State Law, and a bill which requires inspections of state detention facilities that contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The George W. Bush appointee tossed out the claims just four days after denying the federal government’s motion to freeze SB 54. Mendez ruled that the law, which restricts state and local law enforcement agencies’ cooperation with federal immigration authorities, does not violate the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

California officials cast the order as a win for states’ rights.

“Though the Trump Administration may continue to attack a state like California and its ability to make its own laws, we will continue to protect our constitutional authority to protect our residents and the rule of law,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Democratic State Sen. Kevin de Leon, who helped write and pass the contentious immigration bills, called Mendez’s order a “stunning defeat for Trump in the courts and an overwhelming victory for the rule of law.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sued California over the trio of laws in March, claiming that they were created solely to obstruct immigration operations.

Dozens of Republican-led states filed briefs in support of the lawsuit, while civil rights groups and cities such as New York, Chicago and Seattle backed the state’s defense of the sanctuary laws.

The sides argued the federal government’s motion for preliminary injunction for nearly six hours last month in downtown Sacramento. Last week, Mendez upheld the state’s signature immigration policy, saying that SB 54 is not an “obstacle” to federal immigration agencies.

“This court finds that AB 103, SB 54 and the employee notice provision of AB 450 are permissible exercises of California’s sovereign power,” Mendez ruled.

Mendez dismissed the federal government’s claims on Monday without leave to amend. He said the parties have “extensively litigated” the laws since March and that “new allegations will not cure the deficiencies in plaintiff’s complaint.” He allowed the federal government’s claims against a law barring California employers from allowing ICE to inspect their property without a warrant to stand.

The federal government signaled last week it would appeal the judge’s orders.

“While we are disappointed that California’s other laws designed to protect criminal aliens were not yet halted, the Justice Department will continue to seek out and fight unjust policies that threaten public safety,” said DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley last week.

Mendez directed the parties to file a status report before the end of the month and explain how the case will proceed.

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