Students at a 2017 rally in Los Angeles in support of SB 54, the so-called sanctuary state measure, in October 2017. The Trump administration sued California in March 2018 to invalidate three sanctuary laws. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

9th Circuit judges appear skeptical of challenge to California’s sanctuary laws

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court appeared skeptical Wednesday of efforts by the Trump administration to throw out California’s sanctuary laws.

During a hearing, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered an appeal of a lower-court decision upholding most of the package of state laws.

The judges appeared unlikely to block the centerpiece of the package — a law that prohibits police and sheriff’s officials from notifying immigration authorities of the release dates of immigrant inmates.

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr., appointed by President George W. Bush, acknowledged that the law made the work of immigration agents more difficult, but he suggested it was not illegal.

“Because it’s an obstacle, it doesn’t mean it is illegal, right?” he said.

Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz, an appointee of President Barack Obama, suggested there was no federal law that requires state cooperation.

“Are you entitled to the aid of the state government in enforcing the immigration laws?” he asked.
The Trump administration sued California in March 2018 to invalidate three sanctuary laws.

The other two laws allowed the attorney general to inspect immigration facilities and restricted employers from cooperating with immigration agents.

The 9th Circuit asked more critical questions about those laws but did not indicate clearly how it would rule.

Hurwitz asked if the court could simply block a provision in the laws without overturning them outright. A lawyer for the state said the court could do that.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, appointed by George W. Bush, upheld the first two laws, rejecting only a provision in the third that established fines for private employers who voluntarily allow immigration agents to visit workplaces.

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