Ninth Circuit Strikes Down California Plan to Close Prisons for Illegal Aliens

Fontana, CA - February 17: Fontana, CA - February 17: Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during
Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times/John Moore/Getty Images

The Ninth Circuit federal appeals court, one of the most liberal courts in the nation, struck down a California law that sought to close most of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facilities holding illegal aliens.

Sitting en banc, the Ninth Circuit found that California’s AB 32 — passed in 2019 and meant to close effectively all ICE detention facilities across the sanctuary state — violates the Supremacy Clause by flouting federal immigration law.

A three-judge panel had previously struck down the law, but that decision was vacated by the full Ninth Circuit and the case was reheard by all 11 judges. On Monday, the court found AB 32 would give California veto power over ICE’s ability to detain illegal aliens.

The court writes in their 8-3 decision:

At the direction of Congress, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carries out extensive detention operations, a substantial portion of which takes place in California. Due to significant fluctuations in the population of noncitizens who are detained, and other challenges unique to California, ICE relies almost exclusively on privately operated detention facilities in the state to maintain flexibility. But in 2019, California enacted Assembly Bill (AB) 32, which states that “a person shall not operate a private detention facility within the state.” AB 32 would prevent ICE’s contractors from continuing to run detention facilities, requiring ICE to entirely transform its approach to detention in the state or else abandon its California facilities. [Emphasis added]

AB 32 would override the federal government’s decision, pursuant to discretion conferred by Congress, to use private contractors to run its immigration detention facilities. It would give California a “virtual power of review” over ICE’s detention decisions, and allow the “discretion of the federal officers [to] be exercised . . . only if the [state] approves.” Pub. Utils. Comm’n, 355 U.S. 534, 543 (1958). Whether analyzed under intergovernmental immunity or preemption, California cannot exert this level of control over the federal government’s detention operations. AB 32 therefore violates the Supremacy Clause. [Emphasis added]

“We applaud the full court for recognizing that the intended effect of this law — to end federal detention of aliens in California — is what makes it unconstitutional,” Dale Wilcox, with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), said in a statement.

“Under our Constitution, a state may not interfere with — much less cancel — federal immigration law enforcement, and we are pleased that California’s law attempting to do just that is no more,” Wilcox said.

Last year, a number of sanctuary states followed California in attempting to pass statewide bans on ICE detention facilities — including New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, New York, and Maryland. The latest decision will mean Washington–a state which is likewise in the Ninth Circuit–might also not be allowed to force ICE to close its detention facilities. And the federal courts covering the other states might adopt the Ninth Circuit’s analysis.

The case is GEO Group, Inc. v. NewsomNo. 20-56172 in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Email him at Follow him on Twitter here. 


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