Judge Upholds Most Sanctuary Laws But Business Concern Mollified

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

As anticipated here after the hearing on California’s sanctuary state laws were argued in federal court, Judge John A. Mendez offered a split decision upholding the state’s ability to establish sanctuary laws but halting the state’s power to punish businesses for cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The Trump Administration filed suit against three California laws that provided a measure of protection to undocumented immigrants in the state. SB 54 limited the ability of state and local law enforcement officials to help federal agents enforce immigration law. AB 103 granted permission for the state attorney general to inspect detention facilities in the state. AB 450 centered on businesses that were subject to fines if they allowed federal immigration authorities to examine private premises at the business without warrants.

While the judge struck down the Trump Administration’s request for temporary restraining orders on the first two measures, he overturned part of AB 450.

During the trial two weeks ago, the judge suggested that employers facing demands from federal authorities to inspect premises and penalties from the state if employers were allowed to do so without a warrant “puts the employer between a rock and a hard place.”

As I wrote after the hearing, “As the bill was being debated in the legislature, business representatives raised concerns that businesses were put in a no-win situation facing potential big penalties from both the feds and state while dealing with new legal liabilities. They were concerned that not all officers in a business would understand the state law and when a duly sworn officer of the federal government entered the business with demands the employer would naturally comply—to the business’s peril.”

Judge Mendez recognized businesses’ dilemma. He said that the fines discriminated against firms that voluntarily agreed to cooperate with the federal government. “These fines inflict a burden on those employers who acquiesce in a federal investigation but not on those who do not,” Mendez wrote.

However, the judge upheld another part of AB 450 that requires companies to inform workers of federal requests to inspect employment records within 72 hours.

The challenge to the state’s sanctuary laws will not end in Judge Mendez’s courtroom as appeals to his decision are expected.

Beyond that, voters may have a chance in 2020 to vote on ending the state’s sanctuary laws. Proponents of an initiative to end the sanctuary state laws announced they have begun the process of collecting signatures to qualify their measure for the ballot.

The proponent is Don Rosenberg whose son was killed by an illegal immigrant.

Despite yesterday’s court decision, the battle over California’s sanctuary state laws is far from over.

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