The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the administration’s challenge to California’s main sanctuary city law protecting immigrants who are in the country illegally, dealing a significant blow to President Trump’s hopes of forcing jurisdictions to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The justices did not offer comment on their decision regarding California, though two of them — Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — said they wanted to hear the case. It takes four justices to put a case on the court’s calendar.
The justices also took a pass on hot-button cases involving gun rights and liability protection for police, issuing a slew of orders as the court begins to wind down its term, which is expected to wrap up at the end of the month.
By declining to hear the sanctuary city case, the court left in place a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld California’s SB54, a law enacted in 2017 in response to Mr. Trump’s election, that prohibits state and local authorities from cooperating with federal immigration efforts.
SB54 was, at the time, the most far-reaching state sanctuary policy, along with a couple of other measures that also banned private businesses from allowing immigration authorities access to nonpublic areas and inserted state officials into inspections of ICE detention facilities.
In the years since they took effect, ICE says cooperation with California jurisdictions has plummeted, criminals have been set free, and even things like gang cooperation or stopping drunken drivers have been hindered by the ban on communications.
State officials, though, say the law has been a success by making immigrants without documentation feel more welcome by reducing their risk of deportation.
The Supreme Court also declined to weigh in on several cases that challenged law enforcement’s shield from legal liability while on the job.
Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have heard one of the qualified immunity challenges involving Alexander Baxter who was caught breaking into a house but apprehended by a police dog that bit him.
He sued the officers, saying they used excessive force.
The federal appeals court ruled even if the law enforcement’s conduct violated Baxter’s constitutional rights, they were shielded from liability because of qualified immunity. Baxter attempted to get the high court to weigh in but it declined.
Justice Thomas, though, reasoned the court should have heard the case to reevaluate its qualified immunity doctrine.
“There … may be no justification for a one-size-fits-all, subjective immunity based on good faith,” Justice Thomas wrote.
Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, also disagreed with the majority of the court’s decision not to hear cases involving the Second Amendment in a challenge out of New Jersey and its laws regarding license to carry.
Permitting laws in other states were on appeal too, along with challenges to bans on assault weapons, but the justices declined to weigh in on those too.
Justice Thomas said, “The Court simply looks the other way” when evaluating Second Amendment rights.