Jason Gibbs: State vs. feds vs. Santa Clarita in immigration debate

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File Photo

After Donald Trump’s anomalous victory in the US Presidential election, California wasted no time thumbing its nose at his initiative to build a wall between the US/Mexican Border. On the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session in California, Senate President Kevin de Leon introduced Senate Bill 54, known as the “Sanctuary State” bill. Its passing has awakened the often-hibernating conservative voice of many to the point where cities are passing resolutions opposing the state’s sanctuary law. Some cities are even suing the State over the new law. Locally, Councilman Bob Kellar motioned to place this issue on the agenda and Councilman Bill Miranda quickly seconded. The final decision was, however, to have staff look into the issue and bring potential actions to the Council. As each side of the political spectrum debates, argues, or simply denigrates each other, I felt it prudent to read the legislation and discuss the effects on our law enforcement’s ability to serve and protect the citizens of Santa Clarita.

The goal of SB 54 is to grievously limit state and local law enforcement’s ability to interact with federal agencies for immigration related activities, and further narrows the TRUST Act. The TRUST Act seeks to curtail “cruel and costly” immigration hold requests in local jails, so illegal immigrants can come forward with information about other crimes without risk of being taken into custody for violating federal immigration policy. Restrictions imposed by SB 54 include no longer allowing law enforcement to ask an individual’s immigration status, performing an arrest based on a civil immigration warrant, detaining a person when a hold request was placed from ICE, using ICE agents as interpreters, and prohibiting notice to federal agencies when non-citizens are arrested for drug-related offenses.

While SB 54 does not allow state agencies to directly interfere with federal immigration enforcement, the State’s significant limitations on local law enforcement interactions with federal authorities undoubtedly hinder their enforcement capabilities. ICE relies on the cooperation of local and State entities to aid them in their duties.

What the state has done may be both a legal exercise in defiance, and a potential crippling of the important constitutional duties of our Federal government. Withdrawing local law enforcement’s ability to aid in the execution of Federal law does rest on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. The federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. Justice Scalia wrote, “The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program…such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

While the Federal government may ask jurisdictions for help with enforcement of immigration policy, they have not mandated (or forced) such action. California has now taken even more local control away from cities to assist with the Federal Government’s constitutional duties. AB 450, known as the “Workplace Raid” law and an additional step taken by the Democratic supermajority to protect illegal immigrants, imposes significant civil penalties on private business owners who cooperate voluntarily with federal officials performing investigations in the non-public areas of a workplace. I can support the ideal behind non-participation in the context of the Tenth Amendment and the anti-commandeering doctrine, and refusing involvement under protection of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. But, for the State to punish a jurisdiction or private citizen for choosing to aid the Federal Government in their constitutional duties is a gross injustice to US citizens, especially if the crimes an illegal immigrant is arrested for indubitably hurt our communities.

Many on the left applaud the move taken by California under the guise of it being “Constitutional and none of our business.” To call on the Constitution only when it serves a partisan agenda, but quickly dismiss its words when it does not, is both disingenuous and self-serving. Just as we ensure protections for our law-abiding citizens to exercise free speech, keep and bear arms, and maintain their rights to privacy, we also want those seeking a better life in our country to respect our Constitution and follow the law. Otherwise, we may just find ourselves shouting false narratives (“You are racist because you hate immigration” or “you believe in killing children because you won’t give up your guns”) which does nothing but divide us in duplicitous and forever damaging ways.

Jason Gibbs is a Santa Clarita resident.

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