Federal courts split on sanctuary laws

| Apr 1, 2020 | Immigration |

Many states and localities across the country adopted sanctuary laws where these jurisdictions do not cooperate with federal authorities and their enforcement of laws effecting immigrants. Following a recent federal appeals court ruling, the US Supreme Court may become more involved. Its rulings could impact New Jersey’s cities that provide sanctuary from immigration enforcement.

Earlier this month, a unanimous panel of the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the US Justice Department did not have the authority to withhold federal crime-fighting funds from Providence and Central Falls, Rhode Island because these cities did not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agencies or enforce federal immigration laws. The court ruled that the Justice Department lacked the authority to impose this condition on these grants.

Federal appeals courts in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago issued similar rulings. A federal appeals court in New York, however, ruled that the law allows the justice department to make the grants conditional on cooperation.

The Supreme Court is now deciding a California sanctuary case concerning a law that directs law enforcement in that state not to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Under that law, for example, law enforcement should refuse requests from federal immigration agencies for notification about the release of immigrants from custody.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a district court ruled in favor of California. The district court said that refusing to cooperate was not the same as impeding enforcement of federal immigration law. California’s attorney general argued before the Supreme Court that the state legislature found that unnecessary cooperation with federal immigration enforcement deters victims and witnesses from reporting crime and takes away resources that better protect public safety.

The Supreme Court and other judicial opinions could change the actions of sanctuary cities in New Jersey and impact immigrants. An attorney can help them protect their rights.