A federal appeals panel has upheld California's controversial "sanctuary state" law, ruling that the measure does not impede the enforcement of federal immigration laws in that state.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision, found that the state law, known as SB 54, limiting cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities does not conflict with federal law.
The judges said they "have no doubt that SB 54 makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult." But "California has the right ... to refrain from assisting with federal efforts."
The decision upholds a lower court ruling issued in July 2018.
The Trump administration had sued California in March 2018, arguing the Constitution gives the federal government sweeping authority over immigration matters. The administration also had challenged two other state laws. One, AB 450, requires employers to alert employees before federal immigration inspections. The other, AB 103, gives the California attorney general the authority to inspect immigration detention facilities.
The appeals panel upheld both of those laws, although it blocked a subsection of the inspection law that gave state authorities jurisdiction to examine the circumstances surrounding the apprehension and transfer of immigrant detainees.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the ruling.
"We continue to prove in California that the rule of law not only stands for something but that people cannot act outside of it," Becerra said in a statement.
"The people this law protects the most are the criminal aliens," ICE said in an emailed statement. "To be clear, ICE neither expects nor wants, local law enforcement agencies to participate in immigration enforcement in the community; but as law enforcement officers, we do expect our partners to participate in protecting public safety."