Ben Boychuk

‘Sanctuary state’ isn’t just bad law, it’s lunacy

The Resistance wants a showdown with Donald Trump, and looks like it will get its wish soon.

Our Democrats would make California a “sanctuary state,” setting up a confrontation with the federal government over fundamental questions of who gets to enter the country, who gets to stay and how the rules will be enforced.


The Legislature last week passed Senate Bill 54, which would curtail the ability of state and local agencies to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The Los Angeles Times story carried an amusing headline: “California lawmakers approve landmark ‘sanctuary state’ bill to expand protections for immigrants.”

Not exactly. Notice the missing adjective? Whether you prefer euphemisms such as “undocumented” or the more precise “illegal,” the point is to shield foreigners from federal law. Legal immigrants, of course, require no sanctuary.

Assuming Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill – a fair bet since the bill that landed on his desk was the product of several weeks of negotiations between the governor and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles – police wouldn’t be able to stop and question illegal immigrants about their status. Brown and de León call this a “balanced” approach because the illegal immigrants in question would have no existing criminal records.

A court fight is inevitable. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week blasted SB 54, saying it would undermine public safety. Sessions issued a pro forma call to Brown, urging him to veto the bill. Fat chance of that, so Sessions’ lawyers are already drafting the federal complaint to quash this lunacy.

Meantime, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Wednesday announced the state is suing the Trump administration yet again. This time, California wants to block the president’s proposed border wall on the grounds that it would be bad for the environment. Since when does the environment trump national security?

The Resistance sure is lawsuit happy, though. Becerra’s office has filed eight other lawsuits aimed at blocking parts of Trump’s agenda. The attorney general’s latest complaint makes the novel assertion that the Department of Homeland Security has run afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers doctrine “by vesting in the Executive Branch the power to waive state and local laws.”

Mind you, the Obama administration played havoc with separation of powers for eight years, but California’s Democrats had nothing but praise for such extra-constitutional innovations as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Back then, the executive branch called it “prosecutorial discretion.” But Article I of the Constitution is pretty clear about who gets to set the rules about “naturalization,” and it isn’t the president.

Question the wisdom of a wall or amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants all you like. Underlying all of these policy fights are fundamental principles of sovereignty, consent and citizenship. Contrary to what Gov. Brown says, it is not “xenophobia” to insist that immigrants follow the rules. Nor is it enough to fall back on the trope that illegal immigrants are “doing the jobs Americans won’t do.” The word for that is exploitation.

This is basic civics. We are a nation not just of laws but of borders. We welcome all comers, as long as they adhere to our laws, assimilate to our customs and contribute to our society. California’s elected Democrats advocate lawlessness, yet demand scrupulous adherence to the Constitution when it suits them and their interests. The rule of law demands the Resistance lose.

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @benboychuk.