President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE declared his opposition to sanctuary policies when he signed Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” during his first month in office. It states that to the extent permitted by law, jurisdictions that willfully refuse to share immigration information with federal immigration officers will not be eligible to receive federal grants.
Shortly after the order was released, two California localities filed suit in federal district court seeking to halt the implementation of that directive.
The most recent lawsuit was filed by the Department of Justice. The DOJ seeks to enjoin three of California’s sanctuary laws which allegedly reflect a deliberate attempt to obstruct the enforcement of federal immigration law.
One of these laws is S.B. 54, which, in addition to restricting the sharing of immigration information with federal immigration officers, prohibits the transfer of criminal aliens to federal custody.
If this dispute escalates, the next step may be harboring prosecutions of California officials who are deliberately making it easier for immigrants to remain in the United States illegally, such as the officials responsible for the enactment of California A.B. 60.
A.B. 60 required the California Department of Motor Vehicle to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who can establish state residency. More than a million immigrants in the country illegally have received a California driver’s license.
Is California really helping undocumented immigrants with its sanctuary policies?
A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on labor laws that California has enacted to protect unauthorized immigrant workers indicates that many immigrants who have been attracted to California by its sanctuary policies are being exploited by unscrupulous employers.
According to EPI, fear of being reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gives employers extraordinary power to take advantage of unauthorized immigrant employees.
California has enacted seven laws to protect undocumented workers from being exploited by their employers:
- A.B. 263 prohibited employers from using immigration-related threats to retaliate against employees who have exercise their labor rights;
- S.B. 666 made it easier for immigrant workers to sue employers who retaliate against them for exercising their workplace rights;
- A.B. 524 expanded the definition of “criminal extortion” to include threats related to immigration status;
- A.B. 2571 modified A.B. 263 to permit the $10,000 civil penalty for retaliation to be awarded to the employee instead of to the state of California;
- S.B. 1001 and A.B. 622 made it more difficult for employers to use the employment authorization process to retaliate against unauthorized immigrant workers; and
- A.B. 450 discouraged employers from using the I-9 process for verifying the identity and employment eligibility of their employees to retaliate against undocumented immigrant workers.
Presumably, exploited immigrants think the abuse is an acceptable price to pay for protection from being deported. They don’t have to stay in California.
But are California’s sanctuary laws really protecting them from being deported?
According to a report from the Migration Policy Institute, Trump’s immigration enforcement efforts have been hurt by pushback from California and cities such as Chicago, New York and Boston that have sanctuary policies.
Sanctuary policies prevent local police departments from turning inmates over to ICE when they are released from custody, which has resulted in returning some dangerous criminal immigrants to the community.
ICE had to change its enforcement operations from taking custody of immigrants at police stations to looking for undocumented immigrants in the community, which resulted in arresting approximately 40,000 noncriminal immigrants in fiscal 2017.
The main obstacle to deporting removable immigrants is the immigration court backlog crisis.
“I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020.”
From April 2017 to April 2018, the backlog for the immigration courts increased by almost 20 percent to 692,298 cases.
These lengthy wait times make it necessary to release newly arrested immigrants until hearings can be scheduled for them, which gives them time to disappear into the shadows.
Apparently, the main beneficiaries of California’s sanctuary policies are deportable immigrants in police custody who otherwise would be turned over to ICE when they are released and unscrupulous employers who exploit undocumented immigrant workers.
Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years; he subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years.