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California’s ‘Sanctuary Cities’ Law Upheld By Appeals Court

Protester Moina Shaiq holds a sign at a rally outside of City Hall in San Fra...

Photo by Jeff Chiu AP

Above: Protester Moina Shaiq holds a sign at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco. On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked a Trump administration order to withhold funding from sanctuary communities.

A San Diego-based immigrant advocacy group applauded Thursday's appellate court ruling in favor of the state's so-called sanctuary cities law.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Senate Bill 54, otherwise known as the California Values Act, overriding the federal government's assertion that it violates the Constitution's supremacy clause that states federal law preempts state law when the two are at odds.

The court also upheld two other laws named in the suit, AB 103 and AB 450, which allow the state attorney general to limit the expansion of immigration detention facilities and require employers within the state to tell workers when their citizenship may be inspected by federal officials, respectively.

The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium quickly lauded the court's decision, calling it "crucial" to immigration advocates' efforts to push back against the Trump administration's immigration policy.

"This lawsuit against California was an affront to our state's efforts to strengthen public safety for all while protecting families from the president's abusive and overreaching deportation force," SDIRC Chair Lilian Serrano said.

The Trump administration filed suit against the state of California in March 2018 after then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the three bills.

The state drafted and codified SB 54 only after President Donald Trump issued an executive order in 2017, which stated that sanctuary cities protecting immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation and prosecution, would be ineligible to receive federal funding unless they cooperated with federal immigration authorities.

"When questions of federalism are involved, we must distinguish between expectations and requirements," the court's three-judge panel said in its decision. "In this context, the federal government was free to expect as much as it wanted, but it could not require California's cooperation without running afoul of the 10th Amendment."

The city and county of San Diego also had a stake in the court's decision. While San Diego is not a sanctuary city, the City Council voted last May to file an amicus brief in support of the state's sanctuary city law. The county Board of Supervisors voted one month prior to file an amicus brief in support of the Trump administration.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican in a technically nonpartisan office, bristled at the majority-Democrat council's vote in support of the state's laws, stating unequivocally that San Diego is not a sanctuary city.

"San Diego is one of the safest big cities in the country, with public safety policies that have worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations," Faulconer said at the time. "We have no plans to change them."

Trump has repeatedly lambasted the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for its rulings on cases regarding federal immigration policy.

In a Twitter post last November, Trump called the court "a complete & total disaster," and incorrectly stated that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its decisions more than any other federal appeals court in the country from 2010 to 2015. The Supreme Court overturned 87%t of cases from the 6th Circuit during that same span, the most of any federal appeals court.

The 9th Circuit had a 79% overturn rate during the same period, third- highest among the nation's circuit courts.

"It is out of control, has a horrible reputation ... & is used to get an almost guaranteed result," Trump wrote of the 9th Circuit in the same Twitter post.

Since Trump took office in 2017, the 9th Circuit has blocked his administration's original travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries. It also ruled against the federal government in its bids to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era program that allows roughly 600,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to remain in the U.S.

The 9th Circuit also has supported some Trump-era immigration policies.

Last week, it overturned a lower court decision that blocked the federal government's policy of sending asylum-seeking immigrants back to Mexico while they await a hearing.

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