Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones on Monday March 6, 2017 spoke out against a proposal to make California a "sanctuary state" for undocumented immigrants. Robin Opsahl The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones on Monday March 6, 2017 spoke out against a proposal to make California a "sanctuary state" for undocumented immigrants. Robin Opsahl The Sacramento Bee

Politics & Government

Sacramento joins federal lawsuit challenging Trump’s ‘sanctuary city’ threat

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

March 23, 2017 02:55 PM

UPDATED March 23, 2017 09:53 PM

The city of Sacramento has joined a lawsuit seeking to block the Trump administration’s threat to cut federal funding to cities and counties that do not help authorities enforce immigration law.

Sacramento is one of 34 “sanctuary cities” around the country joining a lawsuit filed last month by Santa Clara County. Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Ana and Denver are among the other cities named in the brief filed Wednesday.

In the brief written by the San Francisco law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, the local governments argue Trump’s executive order targeting sanctuary cities violates due process, seizes authority from local governments in violation of the 10th Amendment and is “unconstitutionally vague” by not providing specific actions that will subject cities and counties to penalty.

The brief asks a federal judge to block Trump from carrying out his threat to deny federal aid to sanctuary cities and counties. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for April 5 in federal court in San Francisco.

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Sacramento and dozens of other cities around the nation do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities in tracking or apprehending undocumented immigrants.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said “this lawsuit is about the best of Sacramento and American values.”

“I’m confident that the vast majority of people who live in our city believe that what’s coming out of this administration on immigration is reprehensible,” Steinberg said. “No one has any issues with undocumented people who are convicted of serious crimes being deported. But we’re talking about (protecting) kids, we’re talking about college students and hard-working, law-abiding families who contribute to our community and our economy.”

City Councilman Eric Guerra is leading a task force appointed by Steinberg to explore ways the city can further its position as a “safe haven” to undocumented immigrants.

Trump wants to prohibit sanctuary cities from receiving federal aid. This week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency began releasing a list of local jails that denied requests to detain undocumented immigrants, a list that included the Sacramento County Main Jail.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s order interferes with “a core realm of local governance: the setting of enforcement priorities for local police and sheriff’s departments.”

“It deprives local governments of the power to make policy judgments about local safety needs, and replaces these local judgments with the President’s unilateral preferences,” the letter states.

The order also violates cities’ due process rights, the suit charges.

“Upon being labeled ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ by the Secretary, cities, counties, and states will purportedly lose existing federal funding and be denied future funding, without being provided notice of the designation or an opportunity to be heard to challenge the designation,” the brief reads.

'Sanctuary state' bill draws emotional warnings of police distrust, foreign invasion

At a hearing on Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit California law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, lawmakers on on Monday March 13, 2017 heard emotional testimony from both sides. Video courtesy of the California Senate.

Alexei Koseff The Sacramento Bee

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis