Photo: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
A law enforcement organization whose members include every county sheriff in California and across the nation threw its support Friday behind the Trump administration’s challenge to the state’s sanctuary laws, telling a federal judge that the laws interfere with immigration enforcement and could even subject local officers to criminal charges.
California “compels local law enforcement to violate federal law by concealing, harboring, or shielding illegal aliens,” the National Sheriffs’ Association said in a filing in federal court in Sacramento, where the Trump administration sued in March to overturn three new state laws that restrict local cooperation with federal immigration agents.
The filing singled out provisions of one law, SB54, that prohibit local jail officials who are holding an undocumented immigrant in custody from notifying federal agents of the immigrant’s release date, or from transferring custody to immigration agents once the local sentence has been served. Those restrictions do not apply to immigrants held for serious or violent crimes.
By concealing an immigrant’s whereabouts from federal agents, and preventing them from taking custody, “SB54 coerces local law enforcement to violate the federal anti-harboring statute,” the sheriffs’ association said.
The association also said the state law was “intended to frustrate federal enforcement of immigration law” and conflicted with government statutes promoting “federal-state cooperation” on immigration. And by enacting “its own policy preferences about which foreign nationals should stay within the nation’s borders,” the sheriffs’ group said, California is interfering with the federal government’s “exclusive authority over foreign affairs.”
In its suit, the Trump administration is also challenging state laws that prohibit local employers from allowing immigration agents into private workplaces without a judicial warrant, and that allow the state attorney general to inspect detention centers that have contracted with the federal government to hold immigrants awaiting possible deportation.
Supporters of the laws say they are within the state’s authority to supervise its jails and the inmates they hold, and that sanctuary policies encourage immigrants to report crimes and cooperate with police without fear of deportation. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing June 20 on whether to halt enforcement of the laws.
The National Sheriffs’ Association lists all of the nation’s sheriffs as members, including the 58 elected county sheriffs in California.
Not all of them have come out against the state laws. San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy has taken no position on SB54, and has opposed the Trump administration’s attempt to withdraw federal funding from San Francisco because of its own sanctuary laws.
The California State Sheriffs’ Association, which also represents local sheriffs and is not part of the national association, opposed SB54 in the Legislature, in contrast to other law enforcement groups that took a neutral stance. The state association has not filed arguments in the federal court case.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @BobEgelko