Californians Conflicted Over SB54

Californians Conflicted Over SB54

S.E. Williams

Up and down the State of California, conservative municipalities are being questioned about whether they will weigh in on a federal government’s lawsuit against the state for its passage of SB54, the California Values Act, commonly referred to as the Sanctuary State bill. 

The state legislature passed SB54 and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law last October. The measure was largely in response to President Donald J. Trump’s relentless and aggressive pursuit of immigrants and his expanded deportation orders. 

The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution limits the federal government’s ability to mandate state and local participation in federal programs, including participation in immigration enforcement. In previous court rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Tenth Amendment and ruled the federal government cannot force states to enact or administer federal programs or require state employees to do so either. 

In early March, the U.S. Justice Department apparently ignored state authority as defined under the constitution’s Tenth Amendment and filed suit against the State of California, Governor Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The suit seeks to not only halt the implementation of provisions defined in SB54 but also seeks to restrict certain provisions of other California legislation including AB 450 (Immigrant Worker Protection Act) and AB103 (Dignity Not Detention Act). 

When the suit was filed, the U.S. Justice Department claimed certain provisions of SB54, AB450 and AB103, “are preempted by federal law and impermissibly target the federal government and therefore violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.” It further claimed the provisions interfere with federal immigration authorities’ ability to carry out their lawful duties. 

The U.S. Justice Department (Department) also claimed “AB 450 prohibits private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration officials, including officials conducting worksite enforcement efforts and other enforcement operations.” 

The Department has further asserted, “SB54 restricts state and local law enforcement officials from providing information to federal immigration authorities about the release date of removable criminal aliens who are in their custody.” 

Yet, despite the federal government’s protestations against SB54, the legislation specifically stated it, “does not prohibit or restrict any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, federal immigration authorities, information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of an individual pursuant to Sections 1373 and 1644 of Title 8 of the United States Code.”

In late March, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to join a federal lawsuit against the State of California. On Tuesday, the Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors scheduled a closed-door vote on whether San Diego County will join the federal lawsuit against the state. 

The Voice reached out to both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to understand their Board of Supervisors’ positions on this important issue. 

Riverside County Public Information Officer Ray Smith responded, “The county did not take a position on the legislation or on any legal action.” Also, according to Smith, “The issue has not been scheduled to appear on the Board’s agenda.” 

San Bernardino County Public Information Officer David Wert provided a similar response as follows, “The board hasn’t discussed the federal lawsuit or SB 54 and at this time has no plans to do so.” 

In the meantime, a number of Southern California city councils have joined the lawsuit, taken a local position against SB54 or are currently considering formal opposition to implementation of SB54 including Los Alamitos, Aliso Viejo, Escondido, Buena Park, Huntington Beach, Fullerton, San Dimas, Costa Mesa and Upland. 

The Justice Department’s March 7, announcement of the federal lawsuit against the State of California can be viewed online at

The Voice will continue to follow this story.

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