A lawsuit challenging several California laws filed Tuesday is the U.S. Justice Department’s latest salvo in the ongoing policy and legal battle regarding “sanctuary” policies.

The complaint, which names the State of California, California Governor Jerry Brown, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as defendants, claims that three California laws addressing the role of states, localities, and employers in federal immigration enforcement are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, challenges three state laws:

  • SB 54 prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using their resources to investigate, detain, report, or arrest people to help enforce federal immigration laws, protects immigrants’ personal data, and strengthens state confidentiality policies.
  • AB 103 creates a state inspection program for immigration detention facilities.
  • AB 450 regulates the role of employers in unlawful immigration raids on workplaces.

The Department of Justice has claimed that these laws represent an effort to obstruct federal law enforcement agents.

But so-called sanctuary policies like those at issue here are laws intended to ensure that states and localities can serve and protect all of their residents, regardless of immigration status. Many do so by limiting states’ and localities’ role in enforcing immigration law.

These limitations can strengthen resident-police relations, keep control over police resources in local hands, and protect police agencies from liability based on unlawful enforcement of federal immigration laws. Overall, sanctuary jurisdictions have been found to be safer and more economically vibrant than their non-sanctuary counterparts.

As Attorney General Becerra explained, “States and local jurisdictions have the rights to determine which policies are best for their communities.” Tuesday’s lawsuit is yet another attempt to challenge that simple premise.