AG Racine Leads 13-State Coalition Fighting Trump's Attempt to Block State Law That Protects All Residents, Regardless of Immigration Status

Coalition Argues States Have Primary Responsibility for Public Safety Within Their Borders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today led a group of 13 state attorneys general to defend a California law that limits when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration authorities. California passed this law to improve public safety for everyone by focusing on crime prevention and building trust between law enforcement and residents. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, AG Racine and his counterparts argue that the court should uphold California’s law because states have the responsibility and the independent authority to protect public safety, regulate law enforcement, and decide how to use their limited resources.

“Local law enforcement officials consistently advise that communities are safer when all residents trust local law enforcement,” said Attorney General Racine. “When undocumented immigrants fear that the police will turn them or their family over to ICE, they don’t report crimes or cooperate with law enforcement or seek help when they are victims. The District agrees with California that states have the authority to pass laws that protect their communities.”

The District of Columbia and partner states filed a friend-of-the-court brief today in United States v. State of California. The lawsuit was filed by the Trump administration as part of its crackdown on both legal and unauthorized immigration. It sought to strike down SB 54, a California law placing limits on how much state and local law enforcement officials can coordinate with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and enforce federal civil immigration law.

California passed SB 54, called the California Values Act, in 2018 to protect immigrant communities, improve public safety, and prevent the Trump administration from using local law enforcement to assist with efforts to increase deportations. The law prohibits law enforcement from transferring individuals to immigration authorities without a judicial warrant unless that person has committed a serious crime. It also prevents local law enforcement from providing ICE with the release date of any detainee who has not been convicted of a serious crime, or sharing any individual’s non-public information, including their home or work address, with immigration authorities.

In March 2018, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to California to announce that he was filing a lawsuit against the state. A lower court denied his request for a preliminary injunction, and the Trump administration has appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

In this amicus brief, the states collectively argue that California’s law should be upheld because:

  • States have independent authority to protect public safety: The brief notes that states have primary responsibility for protecting public safety within their borders and have broad authority to enact legislation for the public good. This includes a duty to implement policies that best serve local conditions and policy preferences, and a duty to determine how to use local resources.
  • The law does not interfere with the enforcement of federal immigration law: The states argue that declining to use state and local resources to actively participate in federal civil immigration enforcement does not create an obstacle for federal immigration enforcement.
  • It is unconstitutional for the federal government to commandeer state resources: The basic principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution mean that the federal government cannot directly order states to use their resources to enforce federal laws.

AG Racine is leading today’s friend-of-the-court brief and is joined by state attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The brief as filed is available at:

OAG’s Efforts to Protect Immigrants

This is the latest action taken by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for the District of Columbia to protect immigrants. AG Racine has also joined with other attorneys general to take action against the Trump administration to protect public safety funding for “sanctuary” cities; stop a cruel family separation policy; keep longtime District residents from El Salvador, Haiti, and Honduras from losing their protected status; fight for hard-working “dreamers” to stay in the United States; and oppose the “Muslim travel ban.”

OAG has issued tips for residents in English and Spanish to help them understand their rights if they are stopped by ICE agents. OAG also issued guidance for local businesses and workers related to immigration enforcement in the workplace (English and Spanish), and guidance for school staff and parents related to immigration enforcement in District schools (English and Spanish).