California Defies Federal Immigration Law: John C. Calhoun Would Approve

By Richard Morris & Eileen McGann

March 8, 2018 3 min read

The Department of Justice has announced that it will sue California for its recently enacted — and outrageous — laws that fly directly in the face of federal immigration statutes.

Nothing could be clearer in our federal Constitution than the right of Congress to "establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization" (Article 1; Section 4). But that does not deter the fanatics in the California legislature or Governor Jerry Brown from defying federal authority.

The core issue is whether state authorities should be required (or allowed) to notify the federal immigration agencies when state prisons or local jails are about to release immigrants who are here illegally from incarceration. Far from requiring such notification, the new California law bars state and local agencies from sharing "information with federal officers about criminals or suspects unless they have been convicted of serious crimes." So illegal immigrants cannot be deported after leaving prison because federal authorities would not have been notified of their release.

While Congress is debating whether or not to require installation of an e-verify system where employers can screen job applicants to determine their immigration or citizenship status, California now requires the opposite. State law "prohibits local business from allowing (federal) immigration (officials) to gain access to employee records without a court order or subpoena. It also prohibited "new contracts for immigration detention in the state and gave the state attorney general the power to monitor all state immigration detention centers." So if an employer wants to avoid violating federal prohibitions against hiring immigrants who do not have green cards and asks the feds for information to assist them, they are committing a state crime.

Clearly, these laws are unconstitutional and the Trump administration, led — for once — by Attorney General Jeff Sessions are absolutely right to sue to overturn them. Not since Senator John C. Calhoun induced the South Carolina legislature to disregard federal laws imposing tariffs on imports has the doctrine of state nullification reared its ugly head.

(In November 1832, South Carolina declared that the federal tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and unenforceable within its state. Calhoun warned that any attempts to use force to collect the tariff would lead to the state's secession.)

If California is, indeed, hell bent on succession from the union, perhaps it will complete its efforts to re-litigate the Civil War.

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