The Department of Justice, or DOJ, filed a lawsuit Tuesday against California alleging that the state’s sanctuary city laws are unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, which is the latest development in a series of disagreements between the Trump administration and California officials, brings into question three state laws — AB 450, AB 103 and SB 54 — that prohibit private citizens and local law enforcement, among others, from divulging information related to immigration enforcement to federal authorities.
The DOJ said in the lawsuit that the federal government has “undoubted, preeminent authority” regarding matters of immigration, and therefore California’s sanctuary city laws are in violation of the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.
“No matter what happens in Washington, #California will stay the course and enforce all our laws and protect all our people. That’s how we keep our communities safe,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a tweet.
The animosity between the Trump administration and California officials regarding the state’s immigration laws began in October 2017 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that affect how local and state police and public and private employers interact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials.
In November 2017, the DOJ sent a warning letter to the city of Berkeley alleging that California’s sanctuary city laws may be in violation of federal policy.
The Trump administration also threatened to subpoena Berkeley in January to determine whether or not local law enforcement was sharing information with federal immigration authorities.
Beginning Feb. 25, ICE arrested more than 150 individuals throughout Northern California. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf warned the public about the possibility of these raids prior to when they began. Her warning may have prevented the arrest of more than 864 undocumented individuals, causing United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to rebuke Schaaf at a Wednesday press conference in Sacramento.
Local elected officials were quick to respond to the lawsuit. Schaaf said in a statement that Oakland will continue to exercise its legal right to exist as a sanctuary city.
“(The Trump) administration has tried to portray all immigrants as villains,” Schaaf said in the statement. “We know that is a racist lie, and we will shed light on that myth every day.”
At the Wednesday press conference, Brown reiterated his stance that Americans should focus on what unites the community rather than what divides it.
At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!
— Jerry Brown (@JerryBrownGov) March 7, 2018
Citizens across California also expressed their dissatisfaction with the lawsuit. Demonstrators in Sacramento blocked traffic Wednesday morning outside the hotel where Attorney General Jeff Sessions was speaking.
Jeff Sessions protest in Sacramento, activists shut down commuter traffic on J Street outside hotel where attorney general is speaking pic.twitter.com/UY802SeMd4
— Nick Miller (@NickMiller510) March 7, 2018
“Bring it on Trump and Sessions,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a tweet. “We know the truth that Sanctuary policies keep our communities safe. We will not sit silent while you tear families apart, deport Dreamers and divide our country. Immigration is our country’s identity and is truly American.”