Wednesday, May 16, 2018

( California immigration enforcement )

Supreme Court's embrace of states' rights could aid California in its battle with the Trump administration

Supreme Court's embrace of states' rights could aid California in its battle with the Trump administration
The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. (Olivier Douliery / TNS)
The Supreme Court decision upholding states' rights to offer sports betting was backed mostly by conservative justices, but it may also give a boost to California and other liberal states that are defying the Trump administration's drive for stricter immigration enforcement.
At issue on both fronts — sports betting and immigration — is whether Washington can require states to accept a federal policy, or instead, whether they are free to go their own way.
Monday's high-court opinion trumpeted the independence of the states.
The court struck down a federal law on sports wagering based on the constitutional principle that the federal government may not "commandeer" states and force them to carry out federal directives. The law did not make sports betting a federal crime, but instead told states they may not authorize the practice under their laws.
Under President Obama and other Democratic presidents, conservatives frequently invoked states' rights to block liberal measures coming out of Washington. Not surprisingly since President Trump's election, states' rights have been the first line of defense for the liberal states.
Legal experts say the court's strong endorsement of states and their independent role will surely play a role in the legal battles over immigration and so-called sanctuary cities. At issue there is whether states must cooperate with the federal government in detaining immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, said the Supreme Court's decision in New Jersey's challenge to the sports-betting law "will be directly relevant" to how the courts decide the issue of sanctuary cities. The majority opinion by conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. "signals the justices are serious about the anti-commandeering rule and are suspicious of attempts to circumvent it."
But others noted that Alito and his colleagues gave no direct hint of how they would decide a case involving immigration enforcement or sanctuary cities. The Constitution makes federal law the "supreme law of the land," Alito said, but this does not include the power "to issue direct orders to the states."
"The anti-commandeering doctrine may sound arcane," Alito explained in Murphy vs. NCAA, "but it is simply the expression of a fundamental structural decision incorporated into the Constitution, the decision to withhold from Congress the power to issue orders directly to the states."
In the past, the court has said states and local officials may not be required to carry out a federal regulatory policy. In 1997, for example, the court said county sheriffs in Montana could not be forced to conduct background checks for gun buyers as required under the Brady Handgun Act. Alito cited that ruling.
Alito's opinion went a step further and said states may adopt "offending proposals" that contradict federal law. There was no question, he said, that New Jersey lawmakers had "authorized" betting on sports, even though federal law forbade them from doing so. Nonetheless, he said, the Constitution protects the states' right to make that choice.
Otherwise it is "as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals," he wrote. "A more direct affront to state sovereignty is not easy to imagine."
These words are likely to be cited in two immigration cases pending in California.
In March, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions went to Sacramento to announce he was suing California for adopting three laws that "reflect a deliberate effort … to obstruct enforcement of federal immigration laws."
"I understand that we have a wide variety of political opinions out there on immigration. But the law is in the books, and its purposes are clear and just," Sessions said in a speech to the California Peace Officers' Assn., referring to the federal laws. "There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land."
He objected to a law that authorizes California officials to inspect immigration facilities where non-citizens are being held. A second state law limits how much information state and local officials will provide to federal agents concerning immigrants who are in custody. A third measure, probably the most controversial, forbids private employers from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
Sessions wants a federal judge to strike down all three laws because they are an "obstacle to the United States' enforcement of the immigration laws."
The federal-state conflict is also at issue in a suit over sanctuary cities and federal funds. Last year, the state sued Sessions for seeking to deny some law enforcement funding to sanctuary cities. The state said the Justice Department had no authority to add extra conditions to federal spending laws.
UC Davis law school Dean Kevin Johnson said the court's opinion in the New Jersey case gives support to California's legal claims, but it does not ensure they will prevail. "An argument can be made that the Trump administration, through executive order and otherwise, is attempting to commandeer state institutions in the name of immigration enforcement," he said. Alito's opinion "will offer support to the arguments that [California] Atty. Gen. [Xavier] Becerra is making in the sanctuary litigation."
The court's endorsement of states' rights was notable also because none of the justices, on the right or left, disagreed with the principle that Congress could not dictate to the states. Liberal Justice Elena Kagan joined Alito's opinion in full, as did Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch.
Three others — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen G. Breyer — would have upheld the ban on sports betting, but only because a separate part of the law also forbade individuals from sponsoring sports betting.

Trump administration picks new fight with California

Trump administration picks new fight with California
© Getty Images
The Trump administration is picking a new fight with California, this time over global warming and emissions standards for cars.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected this week to declare that having the nation’s auto fleet meet an average 54.5 mpg standard by 2025 is too strict, two people familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill.
The decision could have huge ramifications for California, which negotiated the target with the Obama administration in 2011 after winning a waiver from the Clean Air Act to impose its own in-state fuel economy standards.
If Pruitt decides the standard is too high, the EPA is likely to lower the target and could even seek to eliminate California’s waiver.
In California, the fight is seen as just the latest attack on a state that prides itself as ground zero for resistance to President Trump ever since Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton defeated Trump there by more than 4 million votes.
“The Trump administration certainly is looking for every opportunity to stick to it California,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told The Hill Wednesday.
California is seeking to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2030, a goal that would be in jeopardy if it cannot hold cars to a high fuel standard.
“You’re really attacking California’s environmental identity,” said Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the UCLA.
California in the 20th century witnessed firsthand the negative effects of air pollution through crippling smog. High vehicle emissions paired with the state’s unique geography consistently rank it atop the list of states with the worst air quality.
Since the administration announced formally in August that the EPA was considering rewriting the rule for cars and light trucks made between 2021 and 2025, California representatives have taken a wait-and-see approach. But in the lead up to the decision's deadline on Sunday, Golden State representatives are starting to take a combative stance. 
“We are troubled about the rumors that the EPA has found the standards to be too aggressive and that they need to be weakened,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, the state agency responsible for emissions rules. “We feel strongly that weakening the program will waste fuel, increase emissions, and cost consumers more money.”
The fight over emission standards would be just the latest battle between Trump and California, where the president’s policies on immigration in particular have prompted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to warn that there is “no secession” from the United States.
On Monday night, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision to add a question about legal residence to the 2020 census sparked new talk of a lawsuit from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), who has already launched dozens of legal challenges against the administration.
Becerra said California is prepared to sue if the EPA moves to weaken the vehicle emissions standards.
“We are going to do everything that can been done to defend these standards,” Becerra told Reuters Tuesday. “So far, when we have been challenged on environmental standards we have had a good record in court. We haven’t lost a case.”
Pruitt has taken a combative approach, arguing the Obama administration gave California too much say in the standards.
“California is not the arbiter of these issues,” Pruitt told Bloomberg News this month, adding that it “shouldn’t and can’t dictate to the rest of the country what these levels are going to be.”
If California were allowed to target a higher fuel efficiency standard than the rest of the country, it would create real problems for automakers that would prefer one national standard.
It’s also likely that other states would follow California’s lead.
Twelve states currently follow California’s rules on greenhouse gases from cars. Together, the bloc amounts for about a third of the nation’s car market.
Companies don’t want to be left with the choice of either making different vehicles for different states or letting California set the de facto national rules.
“That might mean that certain vehicles can’t be sold in California,” said Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Auto Alliance.
Bergquist argued that retaining one standard for the whole country is “better for everyone.”
Andrew Linhardt, the Sierra Club’s deputy director for clean transportation, said the EPA’s biggest challenge in arguing to change the fuel efficiency standards will be in showing that doing so is legal.
The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to grant California a waiver if the state has “compelling and extraordinary circumstances,” which the Obama administration said it does. A change of course would require the EPA to demonstrate that the circumstances are no longer there.
“[California] has always said they’d be willing to look at new data, but that data doesn’t exist and EPA knows that,” Linhardt said. “Again they would have to directly contradict previously findings that they did less than two years ago. The automakers had huge amounts of input into that. It’s hard for me to foresee where that technical data would be coming from.”
Carlson expects California to sue if the EPA revokes its waiver, and the case is likely to get appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.
“The really important substantive question is, does California have ‘compelling and extraordinary circumstances’ to issue standards that are more stringent than the federal government’s,” she said.
Becerra said the law is on California’s side.
“Threats are par for the course for California in this administration,” he told reporters last month. "At the end of the day, they can threaten. But what they can do under the law is something else.”


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