Trump Administration Sues California Over Immigration Laws

Mr. Brown called the lawsuit a “political stunt” in a statement.

“At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America,” Mr. Brown said. “Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”

He reiterated that the California Values Act prohibits local authorities from asking about immigration status during routine interactions, but that it does not prohibit federal immigration enforcement agents from working with local sheriffs or cooperating with them in the deportation of people in prison or jails.

California began battling the Trump administration even before Mr. Trump took office, standing in opposition on a litany of issues, including marijuana, environmental regulations and taxes. But immigration has proved to be the most contentious fight with local officials assuring undocumented immigrants that they would do all they could to protect them.

Last year, California enacted the sanctuary laws, which place restrictions on when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agents.

Both Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump have threatened to pull federal grant money from cities and states that have sanctuary laws to protect undocumented immigrants. They argue that the policies flout federal laws and help criminals evade deportation.

And the Justice Department asked 23 jurisdictions across the country this year to provide documentation that they had not kept information from federal immigration authorities, or receive a subpoena for the information. It is also exploring possible criminal charges for local politicians who enact sanctuary policies.

The lawsuit expected to be filed on Tuesday evening in Federal District Court in Sacramento is the first against a local or state government over its immigration policies filed by the Justice Department under Mr. Sessions. Department officials said that they would not rule out the possibility of other lawsuits against local governments whose policies interfere with the federal government’s authority on immigration. Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont have state sanctuary laws, as do cities and counties in more than a dozen states, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.

The federal government said that three California laws, enacted over the past year, make it impossible for federal immigration officials to do their jobs and deport criminals who were born outside of the United States. The suit called the laws unconstitutional.

One, the California Values Act, strictly limits state and local agencies from sharing information with federal agents about criminals or suspects unless they have been convicted of a serious crimes. The law, which took effect Jan. 1, was the centerpiece of the state legislature’s effort to thwart the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Soon after the law was enacted, Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that the state should expect to see “a lot more deportation officers” and that elected officials who support the policy should be arrested.

“We’ve got to start charging some of these politicians with crimes,” he said. “These politicians can’t make these decisions and be held unaccountable for people dying. I mean, we need to hold these politicians accountable for their actions.”

State lawmakers also passed the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, which prohibits local business from allowing immigration to access employee records without a court order or subpoena. Mr. Becerra warned that anyone who violates the new law would face a fine of up to $10,000.

In the state budget bill, California lawmakers prohibited new contracts for immigration detention in the state and gave the state attorney general the power to monitor all state immigration detention centers.

The state and several local governments including the cities of San Francisco and Sacramento have also set up legal defense funds to help defend immigrants during deportation proceedings.

“I’m worried about the ‘Dreamers,’ hard-working immigrant families and law-abiding people who are just trying to make their way like the rest of us,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento said this year when asked about the state’s sanctuary legislation. “Civil disobedience is a respectful way to show your love for country.”

Tensions between local and federal officials reached yet another crescendo as last week, when Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland publicly warned of coming large-scale immigration arrest operations. Mr. Homan compared the mayor to a “gang lookout yelling, “Police!” and said she gave people living in the United States illegally a chance to flee. He said her warning meant that the federal immigration authorities arrested roughly 200 people rather than the 1,000 they had anticipated rounding up.

Although Mr. Homan and other federal officials have warned about targeting California as it steps up immigration enforcement efforts, the number of people arrested has not dramatically increased so far. In December, the most recent month for which data is available, 1,715 unauthorized immigrants in California were arrested by ICE, compared with 1,379 in December 2016.

This is not the first time that the Justice Department has sued a state. During the Obama administration, the Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Georgia for segregating students with disabilities from classrooms and sued North Carolina over a bill to restrict bathroom use for transgender citizens. Mr. Sessions withdrew that lawsuit.

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