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California federal judge rejects Trump admin requests to block most immigration sanctuary laws

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A federal judge rejected most of the Department of Justice's requests to block California sanctuary laws. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Some of California's most significant immigration sanctuary laws will stand, for now, after a federal judge rejected two Justice Department requests to limit the state's ability to enforce the legislation, Politico reported.

The decision came from Sacramento U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez, a George W. Bush appointee. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra celebrated the ruling.

"The right of the states to determine how to provide public safety and general welfare to their people continues to stand strong," Becerra said, according to a statement.

The decision represented the denial of a preliminary injunction requested by the Justice Department in a lawsuit that dates back to March, focused on some of the more significant provisions of California's law.

What laws were protected?

Mendez's ruling allows a law limiting what kinds of immigration information state and local law enforcement can share with federal immigration agents, and a law that guarantees state officials certain information about local and private jails that hold immigrants, to be enforced.

The Department of Justice challenged these laws, arguing that the state "lacks the authority to intentionally interfere with private citizens' (and state and local employees') ability to cooperate voluntarily with the United States or to comply with federal obligations," and that California has "no authority to target facilities holding federal detainees pursuant to a federal contract for an inspection scheme to review the 'due process' afforded during arrest and detention."

A significant part of Mendez's rationale was based on a distinction between refusing to help federal agents and impeding them.

"Refusing to help is not the same as impeding," Mendez wrote in his decision. "Federal objectives will always be furthered if states offer to assist federal efforts. A state's decision not to assist in those activities will always make the federal object more difficult to attain than it would be otherwise. Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way."

Did any laws get blocked?

The news wasn't all bad for the Department of Justice. Mendez blocked part of one law that banned private employers from voluntarily cooperating with immigration officials and from reverifying the legal work status of employees. Under the law, employers could be fined for choosing to work with federal immigration agents.

Mendez called the law a "clear attempt to 'meddle with federal government activities indirectly by singling out for regulation those who deal with the government.'"

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