The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the Trump administration’s bid to throw out a California immigrant-sanctuary law that limits local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The justices’ order leaves in place lower court rulings that upheld the law. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the administration’s appeal.
The administration said the 2017 state immigrant-sanctuary measure conflicts with federal immigration law and makes it harder to deport people who are in the country illegally.
California argued that encouraging local police to participate in federal immigration enforcement is counterproductive because it makes people less likely to report crimes if they believe they’ll be deported for doing so.
The case is at the heart of long-running tensions between the state and the Trump administration over immigration enforcement. California adopted the measure — which bars local law enforcement from collaborating with immigration enforcement agents except in cases involving more serious crimes — shortly after President Donald Trump took office and stepped up efforts to deport immigrants in the country without legal permission.
Advocates have said that implementation of SB 54, while uneven in law enforcement across the state, has had a big impact.
“I think for the most the improvement has been important. There’s been a significant reduction across the state of California of the number of people that are deported because of turnovers,” said Pedro Rios, the director of U.S.-Mexico Border Program at the American Friends Service Committee.
Led by Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted in 2018 to file an amicus brief in support of the Trump Administration’s lawsuit.
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who took office in 2019, released a statement on Monday slamming the county’s decision to support the lawsuit.
“I was proud to see the Supreme Court reject the anti-immigrant efforts of President Donald Trump and Supervisor Kristin Gaspar who sought to abolish California’s protections for immigrants. This is a victory for those who believe immigrants make our community stronger and a defeat for those who use immigration to divide us based on race and hate,” Fletcher’s statement read.
Thee Supreme Court still has not ruled on a Trump Administration policy ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which would leave 700,000 young people without legal status in the US.
If that happened, California’s “sanctuary laws” could be instrumental in providing the Dreamers some level of protection.
“Legislation such as SB 54 and other related legislation that tries to minimize and separate local law enforcement from working with immigration authorities provides some level of safeguard that prevent that collaboration and hopefully will minimize the threat level for DACA recipients,” Rios said.
Local law enforcement was split on SB 54. Some felt it tied their hands and allowed criminals to re-offend who previously might have been deported, while others welcomed being able to sever themselves from the administration’s immigration crackdown to preserve the trust of immigrant communities.
On Monday, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra said decisions concerning public safety are best made in California, not by the administration, and ensuring residents can trust police is critical.
“The last thing we need to do is to erode that trust,” Becerra said in a statement. “Today, America is experiencing the pain and protest that occurs when trust is broken.”
A message seeking comment was left for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.