The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that Congress cannot force states to enforce federal law. Therefore, the majority of the court reasoned, Congress cannot forbid states from authorizing sports gambling within their borders. The power of states to legislate independent from federal government dictates was found to be covered by the 10th Amendment.
The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In their ruling, the justices found legislative independence to be a power reserved for the states.
It’s not clear whether any new states will choose to authorize sports gambling, but observers have noted that this ruling would also apply in an immigration context.
“The court ruled definitively that the federal government can’t force states to enforce federal law. In the immigration context, this means it can’t require state or local officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities,” noted a senior fellow for the libertarian Cato Institute.
That could mean that the federal government has no right to fight or punish sanctuary cities, as long as they are authorized by state law. Sanctuary cites — and other jurisdictions including counties and the state of California — have refused to go along with some of the federal government’s immigration enforcement tactics.
For example, federal immigration authorities would like state and local law enforcement to identify any unauthorized immigrants in custody and notify ICE before they are released. They have asked law enforcement to hold some immigrants for ICE even beyond their release dates. They have asked law enforcement to bring up immigration status when dealing with the public, including crime victims.
While some law enforcement organizations have enthusiastically complied with these requests, many others feel that the costs far outweigh the benefits of doing so. Asking crime victims about their immigration status, for example, has been shown to reduce calls to the police by immigrant victims, even if they have lawful immigration status. Participating in ICE holds may violate due process. Any immigration enforcement work takes time and resources away from regular policing.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has sought to force sanctuary jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration priorities by trying to withhold federal law enforcement grants. Courts have recently ruled that the federal government cannot withhold those grants unless they were originally conditioned on assistance with immigration enforcement.
The administration sees sanctuary jurisdictions as actively interfering with the orderly enforcement of federal immigration law. Based on this new ruling, however, states may have every right to legislate law enforcement priorities that differ from those of the federal government.