District Leads Coalition Defending States’ Ability to Protect Public Safety in Immigrant Communities

Friend-of-the-Court Brief Opposes Federal Attempt to Upend California’s ‘Sanctuary’ Policies

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine is leading a coalition of nine states, including the District, in filing a friend-of-the-court brief defending California’s right to set its own public-safety policies against a challenge from United States Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III. The amicus brief, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California last night, opposes a federal attempt to shut down California’s so-called “sanctuary” laws that spell out how California law enforcement agencies—including school police and security departments—should cooperate with federal authorities with regard to civil immigration enforcement.

The federal lawsuit argues that the California laws “obstruct” federal immigration laws. However, the states’ brief counters that this federal attempt to upend state laws like California’s is an intrusion on powers rightly reserved to the states to determine and pursue their own assessments of public-safety needs, including the need to ensure trust with immigrant communities.

“As our police chief here in the District of Columbia has said, the cornerstone of policing is trust – and getting local police involved in enforcing federal immigration law destroys that trust in immigrant communities,” Attorney General Racine said. “What we, California and other states want is simply to protect the public and maintain the trust that undergirds cooperation with police.”

The brief argues that the federal government’s position impermissibly limits the states’ sovereignty. “The Amici States are concerned by the federal government’s lawsuit against the State of California, which is based on an interpretation of federal immigration law that would impermissibly intrude on the sovereign authority of states to regulate law enforcement, enhance public safety, and allocate their limited resources. This suit is only the latest in a series of threats by the federal government against states and political subdivisions that do not wish to devote state and local resources to federal civil immigration enforcement. By seeking to make an example of the State of California, the federal government threatens the sovereign authority of all of the Amici States to adopt polices they deem important to the safety and well-being of their communities,” the brief says.

In addition to Attorney General Racine, the brief was joined by attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington state. The brief is attached.