Bill to stop ICE arrests at state courts on Brown’s desk

A bill with the potential to worsen California’s already-frosty relationship with the Trump administration passed the Legislature on a near-party-line vote in late August and was presented to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature last week.

Senate Bill 349, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (pictured), D-Bell Gardens, is a direct response to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s embrace of the tactic of detaining unauthorized immigrants when they come to state courthouses to deal with matters in the California criminal justice system.

Exact statistics are not provided by ICE on its detentions. But there have been regular reports of ICE raids at state courts and their parking lots in California – especially in the Fresno area – as well as in Arizona, Texas and Colorado within the last year.

ICE officials issued a formal notice in January of their intent to go after targeted individuals when they have scheduled appearances in state courts. Some have said they moved to adopt new policies after the California Legislature adopted and Gov. Brown signed “sanctuary state” legislation last year limiting state cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Lara’s bill would specify that state court officials have the authority to block activities that interfere with the proceedings and operations at state courts. It would require federal immigration agents to have a warrant before they can enter schools, courthouses and state buildings to arrest or question people. It would ban civil arrests in courthouses and authorize the state Attorney General’s Office to pursue civil claims against individuals who violated SB349’s provisions.

The legislative aides who wrote the analysis of the bill cited historical evidence that the practice of not picking up people at courthouses for offenses unrelated to their visits – known as “the common law privilege for civil arrests” – goes back hundreds of years and far predates any controversy over illegal immigration.

Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra have been joined in their sharp criticism of ICE’s tactics by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. In a statement issued last month, she blasted arrests at state courts as “disruptive, shortsighted, and counterproductive … . It is damaging to community safety and disrespects the state court system.”

Some sheriffs want more cooperation with feds

Nonetheless, conservative sheriffs in some counties who oppose “sanctuary” policies are supportive of ICE’s aggressive tactics, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is openly looking for ways to increase her department’s cooperation with ICE in spite of the state law.

That suggests that even if Lara’s bill is signed by Brown, some police agencies may be far less enthusiastic about enforcing it than others. Court battles over what exactly “sanctuary”-style laws compel these agencies to do seem likely.

At issue is the scope of the generally accepted doctrine that the federal government cannot compel state law enforcement agents to enforce federal regulations and that state laws prevail unless they directly conflict with federal laws.

Historically, conservatives in the post-Reagan era and Southern Democrats in the 1950s and 1960s have had more of a “states’ rights” approach to interpreting this doctrine, while liberals have leaned more toward the idea that the federal government deserves deference in gray areas open to different interpretations.

In the Golden State, these political roles have been swapped in the Trump era.

While sharply critical of the Trump White House on many immigration issues, Brown has not commented specifically on Lara’s bill. He has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto it and the hundreds of other passed bills he has not yet made a decision on.

Lara is the Democratic candidate for state insurance commissioner on the November ballot. He is running against Steve Poizner, who is now an independent after serving as insurance commissioner from 2007-2011 as a Republican.


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  1. Dude McCool
    Dude McCool 17 September, 2018, 08:57

    ICE is doing a good job. BROWNSTAIN is not.

    Reply this comment
  2. Tom in SoCal
    Tom in SoCal 17 September, 2018, 14:03

    What part of Federal law is preeminent doesn’t Brown and the democrats understand?

    Reply this comment
  3. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 18 September, 2018, 08:59

    Black copters and giant hemp nets in your future.

    Any terrified collateral pickups will be unfortunate.

    Invasion of safe space, civil rights or something…..

    Trumpy fault , of course.

    Reply this comment
    • T is for Ted---- and you know you it...
      T is for Ted---- and you know you it... 18 September, 2018, 11:02

      Bad facts make bad law as the old saying goes. ALL of this nonsense is occurring because the doomer losers ™ elected the p grabbing, dumb-as-a-post, bone spur coward, BK, low class, vulgar, whore mongering, realtor. I have to laugh….

      Reply this comment
      • ricky65
        ricky65 19 September, 2018, 08:09

        Do your best Batman Joker laugh you insane, senile old fart.

        Reply this comment
        • Queeg
          Queeg 20 September, 2018, 12:33

          Comrade Rickeee

          Be cordial, express in ethical manner, br respectful. CWD is a special place for us.

          Reply this comment
          • Teddy Trumpsteak Flake Steele
            Teddy Trumpsteak Flake Steele 1 October, 2018, 11:43

            well said Queeg—- the poor Doomers ™ just don’t get it— I’m afraid they will need a “November Surprise”…..

  4. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 9 October, 2018, 08:29

    Brown is putting the residents on California lives at risk just to appease the rest of his crooked party the Democrook party

    Reply this comment
  5. Patty Hearst
    Patty Hearst 16 October, 2018, 12:46

    Gov.JB floats Ca. Bond to begin purchase of- Russian S-400 anti-
    airborne weapon- missiles to repel US Air Force attack on Democratic strongholds in Southern California!!
    Jerry opens all US bases[underground too] in HIS State as homeless shelter mass grave and Mushroom Cultivation Ag!

    Reply this comment

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Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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