What Happened to States’ Rights?

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of California last night challenging SB54, the state's "sanctuary state" law.

Sessions argues that the state law violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution which says federal law is the supreme law of the land.

via Buzzfeed:

Sessions alleged that sanctuary laws in California do not merely restrict local officials from helping deport undocumented immigrants, but rather, that the policies are “actively obstructing federal law enforcement,” and in turn, putting violent criminal on the street.

“It is a plain violation of federal statute and a violation of common sense,” he said, calling sanctuary laws a “radical, irrational idea” that effectively creates open borders.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra shot back Tuesday night — before he'd seen the lawsuit — insisting his state complies with federal law and comparing the Trump administration's announcement to a low-budget film.

"We have seen this B-rated movie before," Becerra said on a conference call with reporters, referring to the federal government's repeated clashes with California over immigration.

Sessions doubled down on his nonsense in a statement this afternoon, vaguely accusing California of attempting to nullify federal law. There "is no nullification" and "no secession" he said without any apparent self-awareness or sense of irony.

California obviously can't nullify federal law, but the state also can't nullify laws that don't exist. Sessions calls this is a "a violation of common sense," but common sense is not a federal statute. There is no federal law that compels state employs to follow orders from or to serve federal immigration authorities.

This notion is supremely ironic given that Republican states and delegations led by men like Jeff Sessions spent the entirety of the Obama administration making the case for the nullification of federal law. Several Republican governors, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, even called for a constitutional convention to remove the Supremacy Clause.

Republicans like Jeff Sessions loved federalism and the notion of "states' rights" prior to the election of Donald Trump.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Sessions "better have good evidence" and I'm willing to go out on a limb and assert that he doesn't. Jeff Sessions is not a smart person. There's no doubt in my mind that lawyers representing the state of California will embarrass Sessions in court.

Whether the court will agree with California or Jeff Sessions is another matter, but the lawsuit was filed under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which is not exactly friendly territory for the Trump regime.

  • Draxiar

    This is California’s way of saying, “We can’t stop ICE from harshly deporting people but we don’t have to help them either.”

    • Badgerite

      The anti-commandeering rule established by a 5/4 decision of the Court in Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997). The issue has nothing to do with the supremacy of federal law. This issue is whether the federal government is allowed to ‘commandeer’ state personnel to enforce a federal law if the states refuses. Scalia wrote the opinion. Rehnquist, O’Connor, Kennedy, and Thomas concurred.
      This case involved the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which Bill Clinton signed into law which established a federally run and mandated instant background check to see that any gun purchase complied with the 1968 Gun Control Act which prohibited the sale of firearms to certain groups of people such as mentally ill, convicted felons, those with restraining orders against them, etc.
      Until the federal system was up and running the law proposed a requirement that gun dealers submit the proper documentation as to the purchaser to local official law enforcement who would then endeavor to do the background check within five days. The petitioners were Sheriff Jay Printz of Ravalli County, Montana and Sheriff Richard Mack of Graham County, Arizona. They challenged the interim provisions whereby they would be commandeered to do the background checks until the federal system was in place.
      The legal rationale involved issues of dual sovereignty and political accountability, the unitary powers of the executive and who is responsible for carrying out the executive function and why, and separation of powers and the possible muddying of those lines of authority. But the money line in terms of rationale is this:
      “The Court concluded that allowing the Federal government to draft the police officers of the 50 states into its service would increase its powers far beyond what the Constitution intends.” The federal government, federal officers are responsible for enforcing federal law.
      Sessions might be better served to rely on the Commerce Clause. But he won’t. The issue is not whether federal law is the law in California. The issue is whether the Federal government can commandeer state officials to enforce it. And I would think that the answer is squarely within the four corners of the Court’s decision in the Printz case.
      Both cases involve the proper use of federal authority. Both cases involve an issue of public safety. Both cases involve the proposed use of state and local officials to enforce that federal law in the 50 states.

  • RamOrgan

    State’s Rights is just a euphemism for Jim Crow, anyway.

  • muselet

    I predict an uphill fight for Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s Department of Justice.

    If Sessions wants California’s help in ridding the nation of the scourge of brown people! he should lobby Congress to pass the appropriate legislation. Until he does, this is just a feeble attempt at bullying.


  • Georgie

    Sessions whole marijuana bit at the beginning had my eyes already rolling, he’s always been hypocrite, so nothing surprises me about this. He is a racist and a bully.

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