With Governor Jerry Brown’s signature, California will bar people from having their legal status disclosed in open court unless a judge rules it relevant to the case. It was introduced after the state’s chief justice sent the federal government a letter raising concerns about Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents “stalking undocumented immigrants” who appear in court.
“Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws”, California chief justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote at the time.
The measure fits into a larger effort by California to shield immigrants in the legal system from federal immigration enforcement. A so-called “sanctuary” law passed in response to Mr Trump’s election curtails federal access to immigrants in local jails who have not been convicted of serious crimes.
While the newer law focuses on victims and witnesses testifying – rather than on people accused of low-level crimes, as the “sanctuary” law does – supporters have framed both as a safeguard against what they call the Trump administration’s indiscriminate crackdown.
California “won’t be bullied by Trump and his anti-immigrant zealots”, state senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who sponsored the bill, said on Twitter after the measure passed.
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A day earlier, Mr Trump hosted an array of Republican elected officials who had registered formal opposition to the “sanctuary” measure, including by joining the administration’s lawsuit to overturn the measure. He praised a “rebellion by patriotic citizens” who had “bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws”.
The president also accused California of “providing safe harbour to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth” and, during a discussion of the transnational gang MS-13, said people entering the US “are not people. These are animals”.
Those comments set off a backlash, with critics chastising the president for using dehumanising language, and drew another volley from Mr Brown in his monthslong battle with the Trump administration.
The president “is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of California” Mr Brown said in a statement, and “flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing”.