Trump Administration Sues California Over Sanctuary State Laws

According to a report from The New York Times, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against California over its new state law banning privately run immigration detention facilities. At the same time, the Trump Administration also announced legal action against New Jersey and King County, Washington. Both of those jurisdictions recently put sanctuary immigration policies in place. 

The trend in recent weeks is clear and alarming. The administration is ramping up its attacks on state and local governments that are trying to protect and preserve immigrant rights. Notably, the DOJ lawsuits against California and New Jersey come days after the administration took action against New York—suspending residents of the state from enrolling/renewing in the federal Trusted Traveller program.

California AB 32 Went Into Effect on January 1st, 2020

Last fall, California legislators passed Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), a law phasing out the operation of private prisons, including private immigration detention facilities. The law went into effect on January 1st, 2020. 

To be clear, private prisons were not all immediately banned. Instead, as of January 1st, no new contracts can be signed and no contracts can be renewed. By 2028, all private prisons, including private immigration detention centers, are scheduled to be closed in California. 

The federal government has sought to undermine California’s immigration ban from the very start. Days before the ban was set to take effect, ICE signed two new contracts with private prison companies calling for thousands of immigration detention beds in California. 

The DOJ Wants a Federal Court to Block the Law

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in a San Diego federal court challenging California’s authority to ban private immigration detention centers. Notably, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently contracts with four large private immigration prisons in the state—including the massive Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County. There have been serious concerns raised about the treatment and safety of immigrants at these privately run ICE facilities.

Legal Argument: Federal Law Preempts California Law

The core legal question at stake in this lawsuit is whether California has the Constitutional authority to restrict the federal government from entering into new contracts with private prison companies. Attorney General William Barr argues that Supremacy Clause prevents California from taking this action. Our state leaders are fighting back against that argument. Notably, the GEO Group—one of the largest private prison companies in the country and a close ally of the Trump Administration—has also filed a lawsuit attempting to block California’s private prison ban

Consult With Our Los Angeles, CA Immigration Attorney Today

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our California immigration lawyers provide attentive and solutions-oriented representation to clients. We will protect your rights. For a strictly confidential, no obligation review of your case, call us or reach out to us directly online. We handle the full range of immigration law cases in Los Angeles and throughout the wider region.