A federal judge in Sacramento refused Thursday to block two state laws that the Trump Administration claimed obstructed federal immigration enforcement.
But U.S. District Judge John Mendez did issue a preliminary injunction against parts of a third law challenged by the administration.
The three laws protecting undocumented immigrants, enacted last fall, were opposed in a lawsuit filed in March by the U.S. government against the state of California, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The Justice Department sought a preliminary injunction blocking all three statutes.
Mendez refused to enjoin a key law in the trio known as Senate Bill 54, or the California Values Act, sometimes called the “state sanctuary law.” It bars local officials from informing federal officials about immigrants’ release dates from jail except in serious criminal cases.
The measure also requires a court warrant before an immigrant can be transferred from local to federal custody and prohibits local law enforcement officers from asking about individuals’ immigration status during routine interactions.
The state argued that its law didn’t interfere with federal immigration enforcement, but merely prohibited the federal government from commandeering local officials to carry out its own job.
Mendez agreed with that view, saying:
“California’s decision not to assist federal immigration enforcement in its endeavors is not an ‘obstacle’ to that enforcement effort … Refusing to help is not the same as impeding … Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.”
Mendez also refused to block Assembly Bill 103, which allows the state to inspect county jails and private detention facilities in which undocumented immigrants are held during civil immigration proceedings.
He issued a preliminary injunction against a section of a third law, AB 450 that fines private employers who voluntarily allow immigration agents to enter their workplace or review employee records. The fine is $2,000 to $5,000 for a first violation.
Mendez said that provision “impermissibly discriminates against those who choose to deal with the federal government.”
He declined to block another section of AB 450 that requires employers to let workers know when their business has received a three-day notice of an immigration inspection of employee records.
Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley asserted in a statement that California’s political leaders “clearly intended to obstruct federal immigration authorities” when they enacted the laws.
“The preliminary injunction of (part of) AB 450 is a major victory for private employers in California who are no longer prevented from cooperating with legitimate enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.”
“We are disappointed that California’s other laws designed to protect criminal aliens were not yet halted.”
Becerra called the decision “a strong ruling against the federal government’s overreach.”
“The Constitution gives the people of California, not the Trump Administration, the power to decide how we will provide for our public safety and general welfare. California’s laws work in concert – not conflict – with federal law.”
American Civil Liberties Union immigration rights attorney Spencer Amdur said:
“This ruling is a major victory for immigrant communities in California and across the country … The court emphatically reaffirmed that California and other states can opt out of the deportation dragnet.”