5 (more) times California fought Trump on immigration — and what happened

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California had two big victories this month with the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state’s sanctuary laws and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

From the 2020 Census citizenship question controversy to the Mexico border wall funding, here are five (more) times the state has challenged the Trump administration on immigration since 2016 and where the litigation stands now.


Another victory occurred Friday when a federal appeals court in California ruled President Donald Trump’s diversion of $2.5 billion from military construction projects to fund the Mexico border wall “unlawful.”

“We proved in court that no one, including the president, is above the law,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra told The Sacramento Bee.

By a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, sided with a coalition of states, including California, and environmental groups that using military money to fund the border wall was illegal and that the wall would cause environmental harm along the border.

In 2018, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Becerra asked a Northern California district judge to keep Trump from diverting $1.6 billion in federal funds to build a border wall after Trump declared a national emergency at the Mexico border.

“The long, well-documented history of the president’s efforts to build a border wall demonstrates that he considered the wall to be a priority from the earliest days of his campaign in 2015,” wrote Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas. “In short, neither the conditions at the border nor the president’s position that a wall was needed to address those conditions was unanticipated or unexpected by (the Department of Defense).”


In May 2018, California fought against the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census when Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in the U.S. District Court in Northern California.

The question had not been included in the Census since 1950, according to Laura Gomez, a law professor at UCLA.

Immigration advocates worried the citizenship question would instill fear in already vulnerable immigrant communities and dissuade them from participating in the census.

While The Supreme Court ruled against the question in the separate Commerce v. New York case, the Northern California court also ruled against the Trump administration.

In July 2019, Trump announced he would not pursue the addition of the question further.

Gomez said The Supreme Court’s logic on the recent DACA ruling was parallel to the citizenship question on the Census.

“California was a major litigator in … challenging the citizenship question,” Gomez said. “In The Supreme Court, it was a very similar framework to the DACA decision, because it was saying, ‘Does the Trump administration … have that administrative discretion to change this?’”


California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law on Oct. 11, 2019 to phase out private, for-profit immigration detention facilities and prisons in the state by 2028.

AB 34 prevents private, for-profit prisons from starting or renewing contracts with state officials.

Less than a month after its Jan. 1, 2020 start date, the Trump administration filed a lawsuit, USA v. Newsom, in the U.S. District Court in San Diego challenging the California law.

Litigation on the case is ongoing.


The “public charge” rule, proposed by the Trump administration in 2019, has had what advocates call a “chilling effect” among immigrant communities. The policy denies an immigrant’s green card or visa application if they are likely to be dependent on public assistance, like food stamps or other programs.

Last summer, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Becerra filed a lawsuit to block the policy.

In 2020, The Supreme Court stayed several lawsuits, including California’s, that challenged the Trump policy.


A year after Trump’s inauguration, the president sought to increase vetting procedures for foreign nationals traveling to the U.S in 2017. Trump signed an executive order suspending foreign nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries, including Venezuela, from traveling to the country.

California was among an early coalition of states that challenged the Muslim travel ban in the Washington v. Trump case.

In a split 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration in 2018.

“Presidents have repeatedly suspended entry not because the covered nationals themselves engaged in harmful acts, but instead to retaliate for conduct by their governments that conflicted with U.S. foreign policy interests,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.


©2020 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)