On March 6, 2018, the Justice Department led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, filed a lawsuit against the state of California over its recent passage of laws intended to further protect undocumented immigrants from detainment and deportation by federal authorities without sufficient cause. As the country’s leading “sanctuary” state, California’s latest enactments strictly limit the federal government’s authority to regulate and enforce immigration laws within state lines. For example, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act prevents federal officials from obtaining employee records from local businesses without a court order. Additionally, the California Values Act limits the state’s compliance with federal officials in criminal investigations for non-convicted individuals. Together, these laws run parallel to the state’s new budget bill, which includes a provision prohibiting new contracts for the construction of immigration detention centers.
The lawsuit accuses California of unconstitutionally violating the federal government’s plenary authority over US immigration matters. The final outcome may result in a significant power shift between the authority of state and federal officials to enforce immigration laws.