California's sanctuary city laws take a hit in court

The #RESIST movement in California suffered a setback in court this week when a judge ruled in favor of the city of Huntington Beach, a community which claimed it should be exempt from portions of the state’s SB 54 law. That legislation forbids cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officials, among other things. In his ruling, Judge James Crandall declared that the law trampled on the rights of Huntington Beach and other charter cities by limiting their ability to structure their own form of government. (Washington Times)

A judge on Thursday ruled California’s sanctuary law tramples on the state’s charter cities, dealing a major blow to the state Democratic establishment’s anti-Trump policy.

California Judge James Crandall ruled in favor of Huntington Beach, which had argued it should be exempt from the law, which prohibits locales from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Judge Crandall issued his ruling after a hearing Thursday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Huntington Beach was one of a number of California jurisdictions that moved to try to thwart the state’s law, SB 54, which took effect at the beginning of this year.

Before anyone gets too excited, the judge didn’t strike down the law entirely or rule it unconstitutional. That wasn’t the object of the lawsuit to begin with. Huntington Beach was arguing that SB 54 infringed upon their rights as a charter city.

For those not familiar with the concept, California is one of the states which allows for the incorporation of what are known as charter cities. These cities are organized under a municipal charter, allowing them to establish their own form of government with citizens having more control over the municipal structure. There are more than 100 such charter cities in California. Other municipalities without a city charter are known as “General Law Cities” and are subject to all state laws.

California’s freewheeling attitude toward direct citizen participation (which is generally a good thing in my opinion) may be once again coming around to bite them from behind. The state gave voters the right to basically institute or revoke laws by referendum which has led to all manner of confusion for the state government. And this charter system may wind up doing the same thing.

If this ruling holds up under challenge, each of the more than 120 charter cities in the state will be able to either accept or reject SB 54 as they see fit. That means that the cities rejecting the law will still be able to allow their local police and sheriff’s departments to fully cooperate with ICE, the Border Patrol, and other federal agencies. It will also make it far easier for those cities to qualify for federal grant money from the Justice Department, which is currently not too keen on handing out cash to sanctuary cities.

It’s a small step, but an important one. We still need additional clarity on this question from the Supreme Court when it comes to the question of supremecy in immigration enforcement, but this ruling should help keep ICE established in at least portions of California without having their hands tied.

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David Strom 6:31 PM on October 05, 2022