This weekend, Chicago announced its plans to sue the Trump administration over the sanctuary cities grant threat. The federal lawsuit, which will be filed today, is expected to escalate a pushback against Trump’s plans for a federal immigration crackdown and comes less than two weeks after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to strip cities of federal funds, unless they allow authorities unlimited access to local jails and 48 hours’ notification before releasing individuals wanted for immigration violations.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced at a Sunday press conference, “Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate.” He added, “Chicago will not let our residents have their fundamental rights isolated and violated. And Chicago will never relinquish our status as a welcoming city.”
While the announcement occurred Sunday, officials declined to release the lawsuit wording Sunday despite holding a news conference, leaving many details of the filing still unknown.
Chicago is not alone, as the California legislature is considering SB 54. SB 54 will prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from enforcing federal immigration law.
“SB 54 will protect local police against a federal overreach that would have forced them to enforce immigration laws instead of carrying out the everyday duties that keep our communities safe,” said Senate Leader Kevin de León, the bill’s sponsor. “It will ensure that local law enforcement dollars, personnel and other resources will not be squandered to tear families apart and deport otherwise law-abiding mothers, fathers, and their children.”
SB 54 has picked up key support from some like LA Police Chief Charlie Beck and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
“As the former attorney general of these United States, I know from experience immigrants, even when they are victims of crime or witnesses to criminal acts, often fear interacting with local law enforcement officers when those officers also engage in federal immigration enforcement,” he added. “That means more crime. It means more victims, and it means not fewer.
“We have concluded that it is constitutional,” Mr. Holder said. “Under the United States Constitution, states have the power over the health and safety of their residents and the allocation of state resources. Despite statements from the Trump administration suggesting that laws similar to the California Values Act are somehow unconstitutional, the act is a core exercise of California’s authority.”
But on Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown expressed some doubts about the legislation. On NBC’s Meet the Press, the governor said he wanted further amendments to the bill.
“We’re looking at it very carefully. We’re having discussions with the author. There are some changes that I think would be very important,” Governor Brown said.
California AG Xavier Becerra announced on Friday that he is considering a lawsuit that charges the US DOJ with violations of the Constitution over threats to take away funding from cities and states that do not cooperate with their immigration efforts.
On Sunday, Governor Brown endorsed the idea of a lawsuit such as the one being filed by Chicago, telling NBC that it could be “very helpful to get into court and resolve this in a judicial forum rather than in the rhetoric of politicians talking past one another.
“If the law is ambiguous, we can often clarify it by litigation,” Governor Brown said. “This is perhaps a rather small test because the money at stake is not very much. And there is this different view.”
The governor did not specify changes to SB 54 but there are meetings pending with legislative leaders.
“We want to be very understanding of people who have come to our state, have worked in our economy, often for decades, picking our food, working in our restaurants, working in high tech industries, the whole range of what constitutes the life of California has been contributed to by many of these immigrants that are not documented,” Governor Brown said.
“And we want to make sure we help them to the extent that the law of California can coexist with the law of the United States.”
As Cynthia Buiza, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, wrote in an op-ed this week, “Making sure local police and sheriffs don’t act as deportation agents is the most effective way to challenge President Donald Trump’s deportation machine.
“The police rely on a criminal justice system wrought with racial bias to fearmonger about immigrants. But most Californians recognize that mass incarceration and racial profiling are wrong,” she wrote. “With Trump openly encouraging law enforcement to be ‘rough’ and commit abuses, California must ensure that sheriffs and police treat all people fairly, no matter what they look like or where they were born. SB 54 is an important step in that direction.”
Now a key question will be what changes the governor wants to SB 54 and whether the legislature can give them to him.
—David M. Greenwald reporting