By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun
It’s part of a nationwide debate over the legality of sanctuary jurisdictions in the United States. These jurisdictions are communities that have limited their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. While specific laws in sanctuary communities differ, their intent is to create an environment where unauthorized immigrants may report crimes, receive medical care and enroll children in school without being questioned about their immigration status by law enforcement.
The debate about the legality of sanctuary jurisdictions has escalated since an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January threatened to strip federal funding from those that did not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Last week, Northern District of California Judge William Orrick blocked part of this executive order. According to Orrick, because Congress presides over federal funds, the separation of powers in the U.S. government does not allow for the president to make such a decision.
Additionally, he says, conditions of federal funding are required to be “unambiguous and cannot be imposed after funds have already been accepted.”
Because there was no prior condition on federal grants requiring jurisdictions to comply with 8 U.S.C. Section 1373, a law which requires state and local officials to turn over information on immigration status to ICE when requested, Orrick argues that this condition cannot be applied to these funds after they have been accepted.
The questions surrounding sanctuary status have also reached the home front this month. Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood attempted to make a request of the county’s Board of Supervisors to formally declare Kern a “non-sanctuary county.” The request was set for the Supervisors’ May 2 meeting.
This, too, was halted.
According to First District Supervisor Mick Gleason, the County’s legal team reviews all items on the Board’s agendas before meetings in order to determine whether they are within the scope of the Supervisors’ authority.
County Counsel determined that the non-sanctuary item was not within the jurisdiction of the Board and was solely at Youngblood’s own discretion.
“It would be akin to telling him how to do his job, and we can’t do that,” said Gleason in an interview with the Sun last week. “It’s not within our legal purview. We can’t tell the Sheriff how to enforce the law.”
Currently, Gleason states that Kern County upholds all federal laws regarding immigration.
If Senate Bill 54 passes the State Assembly, however, state and local officials in California will no longer be allowed to use public resources to cooperate with ICE. As a subdivision of the State, Kern County will have no choice but to comply.
Gleason made clear that he does not personally support this.
“I would fight tooth and nail against any effort to declare Kern County or the State a sanctuary,” he said. “I don’t believe that contributes to the safety of our communities.”
Whether or not California can legally make this decision is a tricky topic.
Article I, Section 8, clause 4 of the United States Constitution gives the federal legislative branch power over immigration and naturalization. Given the Supremacy Clause, this would seem to be the final word.
However, the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment specifies that any powers not explicitly given to the federal government or prohibited to the states within the Constitution are to be left to the states, and this has always included control over the State’s police force.
Additionally, the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling of Printz v. United States in 1997 also held that Congress could not “compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program” or use its officers to do so, stating that this is incompatible with the United States’ dual sovereignty system.
Thus, the ongoing debate may be less about whether California can legally create sanctuary jurisdictions and more about whether it should.
Overall, Gleason believes that a state opposing federal law is “chaos” and said that he is “vehemently opposed” to a statewide declaration of sanctuary status.
“I think that’s a threat to the security of our communities. I think that’s a threat to our Sheriff’s Department, and I think that’s a threat to the general peace and tranquility and quality of life that we all deserve,” he said.