Feud Between California and Federal Government Over Sanctuary Cities

Immigration march

Earlier today, Tuesday, March 13th, 2018, the White House issued a statement regarding the federal government’s stance on sanctuary cities. The statement alleged that sanctuary cities are preventing Federal authorities, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from locating and arresting “dangerous criminal aliens” and removing them from the US.

The White House’s statement follows ICE spokesman, James Schwab’s decision to resign from the San Francisco branch after Attorney General Jeff Sessions made misleading statements regarding ICE raids. Schwab took issue with the ICE’s statement from February 27th, 2018, that 864 “criminal aliens” had avoided arrest last month because Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf had issued a public warning, which Sessions later affirmed. Schwab took issue with this statistic in his announcement of resignation. For one, he said, these operations never meet 100% of their target, making the exact number of failed arrests inaccurate. Another problem, Schwab noted, was that not all undocumented immigrants are dangerous or even criminal and that to suggest that they are is dangerous and counter-productive to ICE’s objective. This recent misrepresentation of facts marks the federal government’s alarming trend of forgoing due process for processing undocumented immigrants (for more information, see my previous post on immigration here).

Cities like Oakland have reason to be skeptical of ICE operations, given their history of abuse of process (Mayor Schaaf’s public safety warning can be found on her twitter here). Some law makers have even come out against the use of ICE raids, given the amount of force and disruptive powers used during operations, and the detrimental impact it has on legal immigrant communities. This practice was first implemented in 2006 and was known as the Swift Raids, which targeted undocumented immigrants illegally working in the US. Although some have been critical of Mayor Schaaf’s use of a public safety warning, Schwab included, it is an outright distortion of facts and figures to suggest that this warning amounted to an obstruction of justice.

The Department of Justice, however, hopes to argue in court that sanctuary cities like Oakland do in fact obstruct justice. Last week the DoJ sued California over what they are calling unconstitutional laws that allow for sanctuary cities. If successful, the DoJ could block these laws, thus requiring cities like Oakland to cooperate with the ICE. Although this could contribute to a greater effectiveness in the ICE’s ability to conduct investigations and make arrests, it also means a potential increase in human rights abuses which the ICE has been accused of.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC

About the Author

Nathan Prendergast
Nathan is a second year in the JD program at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law.