By SUDHIN THANAWALA and DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Declaring that his ruling had nothing to do with politics, a U.S. judge on Thursday rejected a request by the Trump administration to block two California sanctuary laws intended to shield immigrants and put key parts of a third law on hold.
Judge John Mendez ruled in a federal lawsuit that the state can review detention facilities where immigrants are held and forbid local law enforcement from providing release dates and personal information on jail inmates.
However, he said the state cannot stop employers from allowing immigration officials on their premises without a warrant.
In his ruling dated July 4, Mendez took the unusual step of saying he made the ruling without any concern for its political consequences. He also urged the president and Congress to set aside politics as they try to handle immigration issues.
“There is no place for politics in our judicial system, and this one opinion will neither define nor solve the complicated immigration issues currently facing our nation,” Mendez wrote.
Mendez also said the federal lawsuit presented “unique and novel constitutional issues.”
“Deciding these critical issues requires this court to determine the proper balance between the twin powers of California and the United States,” he wrote.
California says its policies promote trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
The administration countered that the state is allowing dangerous criminals to stay on the streets.
“The right of states to determine how to provide public safety and general welfare to their people continues to stand strong,” the California attorney general’s office said in a statement after the ruling.
The state had asked Mendez to dismiss the lawsuit, which Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has described as akin to the U.S. “going to war” against California.
The judge did not immediately rule on that request.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it was disappointed that two of the laws were “not yet halted,” but it called the ruling on the third law a “major victory for private employers in California who are no longer prevented from cooperating with legitimate enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws.”
“The Justice Department will continue to seek out and fight unjust policies that threaten public safety,” DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
The U.S. government sued the state in March as part of a broader effort to crackdown on sanctuary jurisdictions.
The lawsuit argued that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government pre-eminent power to regulate immigration, and California can’t obstruct immigration enforcement efforts.
Mendez, who was nominated to the bench by Republican President George W. Bush, said during a hearing in June that he wasn’t convinced California intended to interfere with federal immigration enforcement.
The laws instead appeared to be a message that the state didn’t want to participate in U.S. immigration policies, Mendez said.
California said in court documents that the administration was trying to assume powers that have long been understood to belong to states and could not show that California’s policies were causing harm.
Passage of the three laws followed President Donald Trump’s promises to ramp up deportations.
The administration has tried to restrict funding to sanctuary jurisdictions if they refuse to help federal agents detain and deport immigrants.
California has resisted that move and filed more than 50 lawsuits against the Trump administration, mostly over immigration and environmental decisions.
Thanawala reported from San Francisco.