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Immigrant-Rights Supporters Slam Sanctuary State Lawsuit

Immigrants rights groups say California is correct to refuse to aid in federal immigration enforcement, saying cooperation would alienate many undocumented residents.(Tobias Muller/Wikimedia Commons)
Immigrants rights groups say California is correct to refuse to aid in federal immigration enforcement, saying cooperation would alienate many undocumented residents.(Tobias Muller/Wikimedia Commons)
March 8, 2018

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' new lawsuit against California's so-called sanctuary state laws is drawing withering criticism from lawmakers and groups that support immigrant rights.

Sessions argues California is violating the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says federal laws take precedence. But State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the Constitution requires the state to follow the law, not to enforce federal immigration policy.

"We're prepared to deal with this,” Becerra said. “We've had to deal with the Trump administration's attack on our state for trying to engage in public safety and not have our resources commandeered by the federal government to coerce us to do their bidding on immigration enforcement and deportation."

The lawsuit challenges several state laws. One forbids local cops from alerting immigration agents when detainees are about to be released, unless they have been convicted of a crime on a list of about 400 felonies. Another makes it a crime for business owners to help ICE agents find undocumented workers. And a third law creates a program to inspect federal detention centers, which have been plagued by claims of neglect and abuse.

Jessica Bansal, litigation director with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said local law enforcement should not be in the business of tracking down people suspected of being undocumented.

"You know, when people see the police as immigration, people don't call the police when they're crime victims, they don't call the police when they are witnesses. And that is not helpful for anyone,” Bansal said. “It also harms California because these folks that ICE and Jeff Sessions are targeting to have them deported, it tears apart our families and our state."

Bansal said President Donald Trump's crackdowns are terrorizing law-abiding communities, often sweeping up people whose only crime is working without proper papers. She said the policy leaves families devastated and contributes to labor shortages.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA