Trump, Sessions declare war on California


On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a lawsuit against the State of California, challenging laws aimed at protecting immigrants in that state. California officials fired back, with Governor Jerry Brown saying that “these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here.”

The Los Angeles Times editorialized that the feds might be doing California a favor by suing, because the lawsuit could “clarify not just for state officials, but for the federal government where the lines of responsibility and culpability might lie.” Like state officials, the L.A. Times noted that the outcomes of previous challenges support California’s positions. A just-released report from legal groups underlines that point, though other legal experts argue that the lawsuit “a credible challenge.

The three laws being challenged, Vox explains, are:

SB 54 (California Values Act): the “sanctuary” law. The Trump administration is suing to allow local law enforcement officials in California to do two things that SB 54 now prevents them from doing: 1) tell federal agents when an immigrant will be released from jail or prison, or give them other “nonpublic” personal information other than the immigrant’s immigration status; and 2) transfer immigrants directly into federal custody from local jails without a warrant from a judge for their arrest (though local officials are allowed to do this if an immigrant has committed certain serious crimes). …

AB 103: the detention review law. The DOJ is suing to strike down a law that requires the California attorney general to review any facility where immigrants are being detained by federal agents while waiting for an immigration court date or their deportation (or where unaccompanied minors are being held while waiting to be placed with a relative). …

AB 450: the workplace-raid law. …The feds are suing to strike down provisions that prevent employers from letting ICE agents access “nonpublic areas” of the workplace during raids or giving ICE agents access to employee records without a judicial warrant. (Though ICE agents would still be allowed to look over an employer’s I-9 files, the form to verify an employee’s ability to work in the US legally.)

More below, along with analyses of ways that the Trump administration is changing immigration law through administrative action, making life harder for legal immigrants in a number of ways.

Sessions slams California immigration policy (Minnesota Lawyer, 3/7/18)

“The Justice Department, in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Sacramento, is challenging three California laws that, among other things, bar police from asking people about their citizenship status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.

“It wasn’t something I chose to do, but I can’t sit by idly while the lawful authority of federal officers is being blocked by legislative acts and politicians,” Sessions said, straying from his prepared remarks….

“California officials remained defiant, with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown mimicking President Donald Trump on Twitter as he criticized Sessions for coming to Sacramento “to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”…


Trump administration sues California over laws protecting immigrants (Los Angeles Times, 3/7/18)


“[The federal lawsuit] reflects the administration’s limited tolerance for state’s rights when states want to go in a sharply different direction than the administration….

“We’ll see what the courts say,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former legislative leader.

“So far the administration’s record there is not stellar,” he said, referring to the administration’s repeated losses in court. “We didn’t pass these laws to protect people with serious criminal backgrounds. We are protecting our communities from immigration agents intimidating people and overreaching in very serious ways.”

Jeff Sessions’ lawsuit against California’s ‘sanctuary’ laws, explained (Vox, 3/7/18)

“After a year of slow-moving or unsuccessful attempts to block “sanctuary” jurisdictions from getting federal grants, Sessions is moving to stop them from passing laws that limit cooperation to begin with. And he’s starting with a shot across the bow: targeting the bluest state in the union, whose 2017 bills represented a model for progressives to use federalism against the Trump administration’s immigration agenda.

“California, like any other “sanctuary” jurisdiction, isn’t stopping Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from being able to arrest, detain, or deport immigrants. In fact, ICE has already responded to the 2017 laws in its own way — by escalating raids in California and claiming that the state’s sanctuary laws force ICE to get more aggressive in its tactics. …

“Politically speaking, it’s the next phase in a battle the Trump administration and California are equally enthusiastic about having: an ongoing culture war between progressive politicians who feel a duty to make their immigrant residents feel as safe as possible, and an administration (and its backers) whose stated policy is that no unauthorized immigrant should feel safe….”

Immigrant detainer bids are illegal, law groups contend (Law360, 3/7/18) Download the report at

“A Trump administration policy that requests local communities detain immigrants in jail past their scheduled release dates so federal immigration officials can take them into custody violates established legal precedent, a report by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other legal organizations contends.

“Local communities may be found to be violating the U.S. Constitution and other regulations if they agree with the unlawful requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that they detain the immigrants, who the federal government typically suspects.”

Legal immigrants to the US wonder: Amid DACA attention, what about us? (CNN, 3/7/18)

“immigrants who came to the US legally and the attorneys who work with them say they are facing a new world with this administration, where virtually every form of legal immigration to the US is under siege.

“The concerns are wide-ranging: Legal immigrants who came to the US as children but waited upwards of a decade before their family could get a green card — only to be too old to count as immediate family. High-skilled immigrants who have had their visas continually renewed as they wait for a green card who now face new scrutiny. Employers who are worried about being able to hire the temporary seasonal workers they have in the past. Immigrants who feel the administration considers all foreigners a threat.

“Lilah Rosenblum, an immigration attorney, … has a client who works as a doctor in a medically underserved area of the country … “He’s up all night, multiple times in the night, emailing me because he’s nervous,” Rosenblum said. “As lawyers, we can’t even make our clients feel OK, because we don’t have certainty, we don’t know, because never before has this been seen. This is crazy, what’s happening.”…

“Legal immigrants are under attack from processing delays, additional scrutiny, extreme vetting, so that legal immigrants are finding it harder to come to the United States and employers are finding it harder to hire and retain foreign workers,” said Diane Rish, associate director of government relations with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“It’s literally across the board for legal immigration,” Rosenblum said. “In the past, immigration never really changed, and if it did, it was slow, it would take them years to do regulations. … Now it changes every moment of the day.”

Jeff Sessions is quietly remaking the U.S. immigration system (Quartz, 3/7/18) It’s not just the headline cases, like suing California.

“Far more quietly, on Monday, Sessions took the unusual step of digging up an old legal decision that affirmed asylum-seekers’ right to a make their case in court—and cancelled it. That little-noticed move has the potential of doing more to further Trump’s efforts to deport undocumented immigrants than his attack on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions like California….

“E-F-H-L, a Honduran immigrant, requested asylum. He appeared before an immigration court, but didn’t get a chance to testify because the judge determined E-F-H-L had no chance of getting asylum based on his application.

“E-F-H-L appealed the decision to the BIA, which found that the judge had dismissed the case prematurely. An asylum applicant, it said in its decision, “is entitled to a hearing on the merits of the applications, including an opportunity to provide oral testimony and other evidence.” By striking it, Sessions is signaling that giving asylum seekers that chance is no longer required….

“In its decision, the BIA ordered the judge to give E-F-H-L a proper hearing, but by that time, he had applied for a family-based visa and didn’t want to follow through on his asylum claim. So the judge put the case in administrative closure. In his Monday decision, Sessions argued that since the immigrant is no longer applying for asylum, his case should be put back on the docket and resolved.

“It seems odd that the head of the Justice Department would make time in his busy schedule to single out an obscure four-year-old case. But Benson says it fits within a broader effort to remove judges’ ability to put a case on hold.”

Spooked by Trump proposals, immigrants abandon nutrition services (New York Times, 3/6/18)

Throughout the first year of the Trump presidency, agencies in regions with high immigrant populations have reported canceled appointments, urgent requests for disenrollment and even subsequent requests to have any record of families purged from the database.

“Immigrants who have withdrawn from these services are reluctant to speak out about their plight owing to fears that identifying themselves publicly could result in legal repercussions.

Immigration officials will keep processing DACA renewals because of court injunctions (CNBC, 3/7/18) Big DHS announcement: they will comply with the law.

“DHS effectively had no choice but to comply with the court injunctions.

“But the department’s statement on Wednesday accepting that reality suggests that the DACA debate appears to be taking a backseat for the Trump administration while the cases play out.”

Opinion: I spent a decade in immigration detention (The HIll, 3/7/18)

For those who haven’t been detained and don’t know anyone in detention, it’s easy to think, “OK, it’s just detention; they hold you there, they process you, and then you’re out.” But immigration detention is actually a civil form of prison, and as such, people in detention have no right to a court-appointed attorney. You aren’t even told when you’ll be released, or if you will be released. What this means is that people like me languish in this system, sometimes for months or even years. You’re essentially on your own.

“People with whom I have spoken are constantly amazed by the terrible living conditions and the abuse you endure in these facilities.”


About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet,, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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