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Trump Loses Bid in Ninth Circuit to Block California's Immigration Laws

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Thursday largely affirmed a district court ruling that denied the Trump administration's request to block California laws limiting cooperation with federal enforcement officials.

The decision leaves intact almost all the provisions in three statutes—AB 103, and AB 450 and SB 54—enacted by the Democratic-controlled Legislature to thwart the federal government's crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

The laws authorize the attorney general to inspect immigrant detention facilities, require employers to notify workers of an upcoming inspection of their work-eligibility documents and limit the information jails and prisons share with immigration agents about undocumented inmates.

The U.S. Department of Justice, under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, argued that the laws violated the Supremacy Clause and asked U.S. District Judge John Mendez of the Eastern District of California to issue a preliminary injunction. Mendez refused, and the DOJ appealed.

"The district court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that AB 450’s employee-notice provisions neither burden the federal government nor conflict with federal activities, and that any obstruction caused by SB 54 is consistent with California’s prerogatives under the Tenth Amendment and the anticommandeering rule," U.S. Circuit Judge Milan Smith wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. Smith was joined by Judges Paul Watford and Andrew Hurwitz.

"We therefore affirm the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction as to these laws," Smith said.

The panel also upheld Mendez's decision not to block state inspection of federal detention facilities. But the three judges reversed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction for a provision of AB 103 that requires the attorney general to investigate "the circumstances" of why and how a detainee was apprehended and transferred to a holding facility.

That section of law "both discriminates against and impermissibly burdens the federal government," Smith wrote.

In a statement, Attorney General Xavier Becerra applauded the ruling, which came on the same day the U.S. Justice Department released Robert Mueller III's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“As much as all the attention is on whether Donald Trump obstructed justice, we continue to prove in California that the rule of law not only stands for something but that people cannot act outside of it," Becerra said. "The Ninth circuit ruled in our favor today, demonstrating that the rights of states and the 10th amendment continue to thrive.”

A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Becerra's office in February issued its first report on immigrant detention facilities under the new law. The report found that conditions "vary drastically within and across facilities throughout the state," although there were common themes of prolonged periods of confinement, language barriers, difficulties accessing health care and troubles finding legal help.

The Ninth Circuit's ruling is posted here:

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