SACRAMENTO, Calif - The Justice Department sued California late Tuesday, escalating the battle between the Trump administration and local governments over the issue of providing sanctuaries from a crackdown on immigration enforcement.
The lawsuit, which also names Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, challenges three recently passed state laws that the Trump administration says hinder enforcement of federal immigration law and endanger federal agents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce the lawsuit Wednesday at an annual gathering of law enforcement organizations in Sacramento.
"The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you," Sessions said in remarks prepared for delivery to the law enforcement convention.
In signing the bills into law last October, Gov. Brown said they strike "a balance that will protect public safety while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day."
The laws provide some of the most generous protections in the nation for immigrants facing deportation, but the Justice Department argues that they improperly venture into the enforcement of U.S. immigration law that is strictly a matter for the federal authorities.
DOJ lawyers consider the laws to be a novel attempt to regulate federal immigration.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the state capital of Sacramento, challenges three specific laws:
— SB 54, which restricts law enforcement officials from notifying federal immigration agents about the release dates for prisoners in their custody who have been convicted and therefore face deportation. It also prohibits local officials from transferring those prisoners to federal custody.
As a result, the Justice Department says, immigration agents face greater danger in re-arresting the former prisoners once they're back on the streets.
— AB 450, which forbids private employers from cooperating with immigration agents who conduct worksite enforcement operations. The law also requires employers to tell their workers when federal agents are coming to conduct inspections.
The Justice Department said a committee of the state legislature described the law as an effort to frustrate "an expected increase in federal immigration enforcement actions."
— And AB 103, which requires the state to inspect detention facilities where federal authorities are holding immigrants who face deportation.