Back when California Governor Jerry Brown was still pondering the new sanctuary state legislation which was heading for his desk, we talked about the fact that the police unions had backed a version of the bill, but the state’s sheriffs were not onboard. Now that the measure has been signed into law, those same sheriffs are basically in open revolt, publicly protesting the changes and asking the United States Congress to step in. They justify this decision by declaring that the state’s citizens will be less safe because of these changes. (Free Beacon)
California’s sheriffs are calling on the GOP-controlled Congress to intervene and pass a federal law to change the state’s sanctuary state status, warning the law that ties their hands too tightly will only increase the chances of another high-profile tragedy.
The sanctuary state law, which Gov. Jerry Brown (D.) signed Thursday but doesn’t go into effect until January, is the most far-reaching of its kind in the country and places sharp limits on how local law enforcement agencies can communicate with federal immigration authorities.
It would also make it a crime to enforce federal immigration laws on the premises of all schools, hospitals, libraries, and courthouses in state, which is home to an estimated two million immigrants.
The complaints from the sheriffs are nothing we haven’t heard before and their concerns are well founded. What’s not made clear here is precisely what they would like the GOP led Congress and the President to do about it. What sort of federal law would overrule the state’s ability to dictate the policies of its own law enforcement agencies and not run into constitutional trouble when it was inevitably challenged?
I’m sure I might be missing some more recent examples, but the last time I recall Washington overruling the governor of a state and the actions of their police was when Kennedy backed down George Wallace in Alabama in 1963, but that was a case of the state failing to enforce federal law. In this situation, it’s ICE which does the enforcement, and while a lack of cooperation certainly hinders their efforts, rendering them less effective, they aren’t exactly stopping them either. We’ll definitely need some more experienced legal eagles to tackle that question, though one provision which I’ll get to in a moment might be able to be struck down.
As to the actual policies which the sheriffs are protesting, two of them really stand out. One is the inability of law enforcement to notify ICE when they pick up known gang members, including MS-13, if they are snagged on non-violent charges. If they are on the registry of known gang members, ICE should be able to take that opportunity to get them out of the country even if they were only pulled over for an illegal right on red.
The other is the order forbidding ICE from conducting enforcement operations in the vicinity of schools, churches and courthouses. This is the one I mentioned above which might be shot down by Congress because it’s directly blocking federal enforcement of the law. If you refuse to honor detainers from immigration enforcement so illegal aliens can’t be safely picked up at the jailhouse, they are forced to move into such public operations. This is how you wind up with efforts like Operation Safe City being conducted by ICE. They wouldn’t need to do that if they were getting some cooperation.
But closing off the ability to conduct operations near courthouses could very well be grounds for direct obstruction of justice charges. I’m not sure if a new law coming out of Congress is the answer or if a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice or Homeland Security might be better. Any time you have Washington overruling state laws I get nervous and that’s ground we need to tread on only very cautiously.