President Donald Trump’s administration sued California on Tuesday for its sanctuary state policies that sought to protect undocumented immigrants and limit local law enforcement from working with federal immigration authorities.
The Daily Bruin’s Julia Shapero spoke with Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda, a Chicana/o studies associate professor who researches immigration, about the lawsuit’s implications for undocumented individuals in the state.
Daily Bruin: What is the lawsuit about?
Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda: Basically what is going on here is the federal government is suing because the state legislature passed a sanctuary state bill and they are specifically arguing about three things that they don’t like in the law.
Number one, the (California) law says that if the federal government wants to come in and raid a factory looking for undocumented people, they have to provide a warrant, and so this, in a sense, protects both employers and workers that the state feels would be put at risk, and basically moved underground what they’re trying to do which is basically employ necessary labor.
The second issue is that the state has said they are not going to proactively go through everybody that is being released from prison, and going through and checking their immigration status for the federal government. They’re saying they don’t feel that they have to be obligated to basically do the work that the federal government should be doing.
And then the third one is an issue about … federal detention centers and private detention centers and whether the federal government has to comply with data sharing that the state wants. So the state wants to be able to basically see what is going inside these detention facilities. So these are all things that are a part of the sanctuary state bill that was passed by the legislature.
DB: What are the implications of this lawsuit for the University of California?
RH: Now in terms of how (this lawsuit) may affect the UC schools and UCLA … if the federal government is forcing the state to … be used as agents of enforcing federal immigration law, that could be very serious indeed.
Technically speaking, they could try to overturn local attempts like the UC has … saying if you’re going to come on campus at the UC or UCLA to get Dreamers, for example, you must have warrants that have been presented in front of a judge. You can’t just go in here and do want they want us to do in Arizona and start picking up students because they look like they may be undocumented.
The law does require if you’re going to go pick up somebody you have to have a warrant. That’s very clear but the federal government can do other types of things that are not only based on warrants … like control the border and see somebody there and then try to stop them. But the UC is saying we’re not a border (and) we’re not a place where you can just indiscriminately come in and require the local governments or local authorities to cooperate.
DB: Would the lawsuit be able to impact the UC’s policies protecting undocumented workers or students in any way?
RH: Well, again, the university is an employer. It could conceivably require local employers to cooperate with a broad order from (the Department of) Homeland Security. That’s clearly what the intent of previous federal actions that were … like the Muslim ban and other types of bans. Clearly, this administration has attempted to do that, to restrict immigrants … and to require local institutions to cooperate with them. Now, this case does not specifically address the UC’s decision to not cooperate, like many others, but if it won, it could definitely open the door for those types of policies which we know the federal government wants to pursue. So, the details of this particular case wouldn’t directly affect the UCs, except for the fact that, as employers, they could be subject to much greater pressure from the point of view of the federal government.
DB: Why do you think the Trump administration decided to sue California?
RH: Well you know again, I think that this was a very obviously politically motivated suit. The fact that … Jeff Sessions came out to Sacramento and now the president is coming out to California, they obviously did this and rolled it out in a way to maximize media attention to a fight that Trump is picking with the state of California.
(This is) probably not going to do him any good in California politically. It might do him good in other parts of the country that already agree with him. And obviously, Fox News just loves to attack California liberals so I think this is, rather than a serious strategy that the federal government insists that it must have to win in order to actually implement the law, I think it is a political showdown that they want to have.
DB: What are the financial impacts of the lawsuit, if the Trump administration were to win, to the California economy?
RH: If (the Trump administration) were to win, I think you could have a very serious effect on the State of California’s economy in particular, because it would, first of all, allow employers to cooperate as they saw fit with immigration officials.
That would open up a whole range of not only problems for immigrant workers, making them much more at risk, therefore push them further underground, push the entire employer-employee relationship further into the shadows, and one based on distrust.
Right now, the feeling is … if you are in the United States and you are not breaking any law and you are not on the border of breaking any law, you should not be subject to indiscriminate search and seizures. If there is an actual warrant for a criminal individual, that’s fine. Right? And if there is a criminal who is in jail that is already identified and wanted by the federal government, they can still request to be held.
What (California is) saying, though, is that (the federal government) can’t use the local government to start searching around – or private individuals going around acting as if they are doing the work of the federal immigration authorities and the federal government can’t require them to do that.
DB: Are there any precedents that could help us understand how it might play out in court?
RH: Now there is a precedent about local state governments passing laws having to do with immigration – the case of Arizona, which lost against (former President Barack) Obama’s Justice Department. … They wanted to deputized police to actually implement immigration law and actually go beyond what the federal authorities were doing on immigration law (such as) detaining people that they thought may be possibly undocumented. That was shot down.
I think the only thing that’s similar about this precedent is that they both have to do with states and immigration, but in terms of the detail, they’re very different. The Arizona case (was) trying to expand and take over the federal immigration responsibility, and in the case of California, they’re trying to say (they) don’t have to cooperate with the federal government doing what they are supposed to be doing on their own.
So I think these are very different types of cases, very different types of arguments. I mean again (California is) not prohibiting the federal government from coming in and enforcing laws. They’re simply saying that their state resources are pretty busy and they’re not going to do the work for the federal government.
And at that point, the rhetoric just gets more insane. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says that the state of California wants to break the law. There’s no law being broken. That they want open borders. There’re no open borders being suggested here. They’re simply saying we’re going to limit the cooperation that is being demanded by the federal government. There may be what’s called the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution which says that the federal government has jurisdiction over immigration, that’s fine. But also in the Constitution, it says that the states cannot be required to do things which are not their responsibility in which case they are certainly saying immigration is not our responsibility. We agree with the supremacy clause. It’s the federal government. So we’ll see.