On April 18, 2019, Judges Milan Smith, Paul Watford, and Andrew Hurwitz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled that Senate Bill (SB) 54, California’s sanctuary state law, did not conflict with federal law.
Writing for the panel, Smith wrote that SB 54 “makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult” but “does not directly conflict with any obligation” that federal law imposes on state or local governments. Smith also wrote against a provision in AB 103. “Only those provisions that impose an additional economic burden exclusively on the federal government are invalid,” he said.
Smith was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush (R). Watford and Hurwitz were appointed by President Barack Obama (D).
The decision upheld U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Judge John Mendez’s July 2018 ruling.
The Trump administration brought the lawsuit in March 2018. The lawsuit challenged three California statutes: SB 54, AB 450, and AB 103.
As passed, SB 54 established the following provisions:
- Exempting state prisons from provisions prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
- Permitting law enforcement officials to notify ICE of the release of certain individuals and share database information with immigration agents.
- Allowing federal immigration agents to interview jailed individuals suspected of violating federal immigration law.
AB 103 established restrictions on state and local agencies, preventing them from contracting with the federal government to detain immigrants. AB 450 included a provision requiring employers to notify employees about immigration inspections.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to the ruling. The government could seek en banc review from an 11-member panel of 9th Circuit judges or petition the Supreme Court of the United States for review.