The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution establishing the Constitution and all laws made pursuant to it the supreme law of the land has maintained one fact throughout all our nation’s history — laws constitutionally enacted by Congress supersede laws passed by state governments on the same subject when there is a conflict.
Andrew Jackson asserted the supremacy of federal authority to be a pillar of American identity, noting in his Dec. 10, 1832 Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, in response to South Carolina’s attempt nullify tariffs enacted by Congress, “I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”
Now, 185 years later, the state of California wants to once against attempt to violate federal authority in order to pursue its own immigration agenda — by declaring itself a sanctuary state in defiance of an executive order by President Donald Trump promising to enforce federal immigration law and defund cities. Trump recently signed an executive order calling for expedited illegal immigrant deportations and the increased apprehension of illegal immigrants to prevent crime, deputizing local municipalities to enforce immigration law, and defunding sanctuary cities.
In response, the left has gone nuts. As the Los Angeles local CBS News explained on Jan. 30, “The Senate [is] rush[ing] to enact measures that Democratic lawmakers say would protect immigrants from the crackdown that the Republican president has promised.”
California Senate President pro tempore Kevin de Leon has proposed a bill that would prevent state and local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal investigations, including immigration violations, of any kind. This would include existing agreements by the state of California and police departments in California to submit criminal records to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) via the National Crime Information Center database. Under the California law, the state would stop interfacing with this database unless the federal government certifies that the criminal records will not be used to enforce federal immigration law.
As the proposal states, “State and local law enforcement agencies and school police and security departments shall not… [m]ake agency or department databases, including databases maintained for the agency or department by private vendors, or the information therein other than information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status, available to anyone or any entity for the purpose of immigration enforcement. Any agreements in existence on the date that this chapter becomes operative that conflict with the terms of this paragraph are terminated on that date. A person or entity provided access to agency or department databases shall certify in writing that the database will not be used for the purposes prohibited by this section.”
It’s the new nullification.
There’s only one problem. If that law was followed by the FBI, where it agreed not to use California criminal records submitted to the agency to enforce federal immigration law, it would be violating federal law, 18 U.S. Code Section 1505, blocking any person from obstructing federal investigations of federal offenses, that is, anyone who “influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States…” which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
And, to the extent the law would prevent local authorities from notifying federal law enforcement of the presence of known illegal immigrants, it would also violate federal law, 8 U.S. Code Section 1373, which clearly states, “Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”
In short California is attempting to nullify federal immigration law, and threatening to pull out of the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database — which state and local police departments voluntarily submit criminal records to and assist in automatically alerting federal officials when individuals wanted for federal crimes are booked — all to obstruct President Donald Trump’s intention to enforce federal immigration law.
California’s blatant disregard for federal authority threatens the safety of all of California’s citizens — and the American people. If California pulls out of federal criminal records databases, it could become a haven for international terrorists planning to carry out attacks in the U.S.
The Supreme Court has ruled strictly and consistently based on the constitution that the federal government’s authority to preempt state law. The Preemption Doctrine is drawn from the Supremacy Clause of the constitution which states that the, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof any thing in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” California’s proposed law withholding immigration information from federal authorities, and obstructing federal law enforcement, could very well be construed as a constitutional violation.
In New York Cent R. Co v. Winfield when state authority challenged federal interstate commerce law in 1917, the Supreme Court definitively ruled that “It also is settled that when Congress acts upon the subject all state laws covering the same field are necessarily superseded by reason of the supremacy of the national authority.”
Federal law has been made clear and California has no grounds to revert it, the Supreme Court has been steady in this decision.
Almost 50 years after the precedent was set, in the 1956 Supreme Court case Pennsylvania v. Nelson, the courts ruled once again that where federal law was clearly sufficient, there should be no conflicting state law. The decision reads, “[t]he scheme of federal regulation [is] so pervasive as to make reasonable the inference that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it.”
California’s bill is an attempt to nullify federal law because the state has decided it does not want to enforce it. Unfortunately, as Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning reminds, “California’s legislative proposal would turn state Governor Jerry Brown into the new John C. Calhoun,” referencing Calhoun’s failed attempt to allow South Carolina to evade tariff law in the 1830s.
Just as with South Carolina nearly two hundred years ago, when federal government has control over a policy, states cannot simply decide to disagree and enforce their own law.
Ironically, in 2012 in Arizona et al v. United States, the Supreme Court reminded states that the federal government is the sole authority on immigration law and cannot be nullified. The decision was clear, “The Federal Government’s broad, undoubted power over immigration and alien status rests, in part, on its constitutional power to ‘establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,’ and on its inherent sovereign power to control and conduct foreign relations…state laws are preempted when they conflict with federal law, including when they stand ‘as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.’”
California is advocating the suspension of information critical for the federal governments mission to secure our borders and expedite illegal immigrant deportation. The bill itself states, “The Attorney General, within three months after the effective date of the act that added this section, in consultation with the appropriate stakeholders, shall publish model policies limiting immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law at public schools, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, courthouses, and shelters, to ensure that they remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status.”
California’s policy crates a direct obstacle to the accomplishment of Trump’s immigration plan and will threaten the safety and accessibility of public places for the citizens the state swears to protect.
Had San Francisco not been acting as a sanctuary city in this way, Francisco Sanchez would not have been able to murder Kate Steinle. The San Francisco Gate reports in July 2015 just following the incident, “The man arrested on suspicion of murder in the shooting death of Kate Steinle on San Francisco’s Pier 14 Wednesday has a rap sheet with seven felonies, was deported five times, and in March was released from San Francisco Jail, despite immigration authorities asking that he be kept in custody.”
By cutting off state and local police from cooperating with federal authorities, it becomes more difficult for federal agencies to protect citizens — and people will die. Blocking criminal record sharing information regarding illegal immigrants will enable the commission of serious commit crimes, use government assistance, and in this trying time, possibly bring international terrorism into our borders with no protection to American citizens.
President Trump’s executive order has rightly attempted to combat the growth of sanctuary cities by preventing them from receiving any federal grants. Yet California is pursuing this legislation anyway. Not only is California risking immeasurable harm to its citizens lives, but the state is also risking financial devastation, as the state risks losing $135 million in federal grant money.
The California legislature is not thinking about the lives of its people or the security of its economy. With its nullification of federal immigration law, it is attempting to undercut the rule of law — and putting our entire nation at a greater risk in the process.