SAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration will try to persuade a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to block California laws aimed at protecting immigrants, seeking a win in one of numerous lawsuits between the White House and the Democratic-dominated state.
At issue in the hearing before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a 2018 administration lawsuit over three California laws that extended protections to people in the country illegally.
The legal challenge was part of the administration’s broader efforts to crack down on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions that it says allow criminals to stay on the streets.
California officials say their policies limiting cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities promote trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement and encourage witnesses and victims to report crime.
More than 50 immigrant advocates protested outside the federal courthouse, some holding signs saying “ICE out of California,” referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The U.S. Department of Justice argued in court documents that the Constitution gives the federal government pre-eminent power to regulate immigration, and the three laws obstruct those efforts.
“The bills, individually and collectively, mark an extraordinary and intentional assault on the federal government’s enforcement of the immigration laws,” Justice Department attorneys said in a filing.
U.S. Judge John Mendez in Sacramento kept two of the laws in place in July but blocked part of a third.
He ruled that California could limit police cooperation with immigration officials and require inspections of detention facilities where immigrants are held, but the state could not bar private employers from allowing immigration officials on their premises without a warrant.
The Trump administration is asking a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit to entirely block all three laws. The panel will hear arguments but will not immediately rule.
The three state laws were aimed at preserving “state resources for state priorities and to safeguard the health and welfare of state residents,” the California attorney general’s office said in a brief to the 9th Circuit. “Nothing in the Constitution or federal immigration law divests the State of the authority to make those choices.”
President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the 9th Circuit for ruling against several of his policies. California has sued his administration dozens of times, mostly over immigration, the environment and health care.