The Department of Justice filed suit in March challenging California’s so-called sanctuary laws. DOJ asserts that the state laws are preempted by federal law and requests injunctions to halt their enforcement.

On June 20, 2018, during a hearing on the injunction request, the parties were questioned by U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez, a George W. Bush appointee, for more than six hours.

The suit challenges three laws: AB 103 implements monitoring of immigration detention facilities; SB 54 prevents California law enforcement officials from providing release dates of prisoners; and AB 450 imposes restrictions and obligations on employers regarding worksite inspections by immigration enforcement agents.

Under AB 450, employers are prohibited from:

  • Voluntarily allowing ICE or other federal agencies from entering non-public areas, except when presented with a judicial warrant; and
  • Voluntarily allowing access to review employee records without a subpoena or warrant, other than the employer’s I-9s or other records required under federal regulations.

In addition, under AB 450, employers must notify the workforce of an audit of employee records and notify affected employees that their employment records had been identified as suspect.

Observers said Judge Mendez appeared skeptical of the government’s arguments, but he told the lawyers that he often plays devil’s advocate. In other words, they should not read too much into his questioning.

California Governor Jerry Brown, commenting on the suit, said that the Administration was declaring war on California. California and its Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, have been at the epicenter of opposition to Trump Administration policies. The state has filed a number of suits regarding Trump’s immigration laws, and California has been a target of ICE investigations and raids.

However Judge Mendez rules, this case is likely to find its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.