The Supreme Court Shoots Down Trump’s Challenge to California’s Sanctuary Law

A decision by late conservative justice Antonin Scalia says the federal government can’t ”commandeer” local police departments

California scored a major win against the Trump White House Monday as the Supreme Court refused to hear the administration’s challenge to the state’s “sanctuary” law—upholding a previous decision that state and local law enforcement do not have to assist federal agents in taking custody of immigrants as they are released from jail, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted to hear the case, while Trump’s own appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Cavanaugh, refused to consider the administration’s appeal. And for added insult, the rejection was partially based on a 1997 opinion by the late arch-conservative justice Antonin Scalia, stating that the federal government cannot “commandeer” state or local police departments to enforce a federal law.

In that case, Printz v. United States, SCOTUS ruled that local sheriffs could not be forced to conduct background checks on people buying handguns.

Led by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s lawyers had argued that California’s Senate Bill 54 obstructed federal law enforcement when appealing a 2017 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. In that case, U.S. District Judge John Mendez ruled that state and local officials were not obstructing federal agents, saying, “Refusing to help is not the same as impeding.”

Defending the law, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra cited Printz v. U.S., arguing, “SB 54 regulates the use of the state’s own resources. It establishes the conditions under which state and local law enforcement agencies may deploy public funds and personnel to assist with federal immigration enforcement.”

When California passed SB 54, lawyers for the state said that Trump’s amped up immigration enforcement would cause immigrants to “fear approaching police when they are victims of, and witnesses to, crimes, jeopardizing public safety for all Californians.”

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