President Donald Trump’s executive order to crack down on sanctuary cities is cracking after a Florida judge issued a 15-page ruling Friday stating that it is unconstitutional for local jails to hold undocumented immigrants for federal deportation after they have been cleared of local charges.
The petition of habeas corpus, which you can read here and below, stems from a case involving a Haitian man living in Miami who had been arrested for driving with a suspended license, spending several weeks in jail before he was ordered released for time served.
But Miami-Dade County jailers kept James Lacroix for an additional 28 hours, which was unconstitutional, according to today’s ruling.
Miami-Dade County Judge Milton Hirsch ruled that the Constitution’s plain delegation of immigration authority to be the sole province of federal authorities was known all the way back to the very first congress – per a detailed precedent written by deceased Justice Antonin Scalia – and that it explicitly precludes both the president from making spending decisions by executive order.
His eloquent ruling is a lesson in the value of America’s system of checks and balances:
No doubt the limitations imposed by the Tenth Amendment, like so many limitations imposed by the Constitution, are a source of frustration to those who dream of wielding power in unprecedented ways or to unprecedented degrees.
But America was not made for those who dream of power. America was made for those with the power to dream. Miami is not, and has never been, a sanctuary city.
But America is, and has always been, a sanctuary country.
As I have written elsewhere, “America, perhaps more than any other nation, was made great not by its leaders but by its people: by the refugees who were called to begin life anew; by the pioneers who were called to build a nation; by ‘the homeless, tempest-tossed’ who were called by the light that shone from the ‘lamp beside the golden door’.”
Of course we must protect our country from the problems associated with unregulated immigration. We must protect our country from a great many things; but from nothing so much as from the loss of our historic rights and liberties.
Judge Hirsch explicitly framed his ruling as upholding the Tenth Amendment’s check on federal authority to protect the rights of the people in line with a famous 1997 gun rights case decided by Scalia.
That Montana case famously ruled that local officials did not have to comply with federal regulatory gun control mandates, even in a system that states and the federal government share responsibility.
Florida’s most populous county didn’t waste any time in taking the ruling into a next level state appeals court.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s spokesman provided this statement:
“Miami-Dade County appealed Judge Hirsch to Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals (DCA) and it’s filed. The County is requesting an immediate stay on the judge’s order, but we continue to honor detainer requests until such time as the 3rd DCA rules.”
Lacroix pleaded guilty on Tuesday, ending his jail term. But he was not released from custody. Rather, Miami-Dade jailers kept Lacroix jailed for 28 hours until federal agents picked him up from the county’s main detention center.
The Miami Herald reports that Lacroix’s lawyer called compliance tantamount to cooperating with blackmail:
“It’s nothing more than the federal government threatening and blackmailing states and Miami-Dade County,” said Philip Reizenstein, an attorney for a Haitian national slated to be sent home from Miami after he rang up a series of traffic offenses. “Hold somebody illegally or you’re not going to get the money that we would otherwise designate to you.”
This case is the first major test since the Miami-Dade County’s Commission voted 9-3 to direct the county to cave into President Trump’s policy to ensnare undocumented immigrants with civil violations into local criminal justice systems and jails.
The mayor’s spokesman, Michael A. Hernandez, blames a lack of national immigration reform laws on the messy situation which is harming people in the majority immigrant community:
“The County’s position is that this matter should not be settled in the State courts, but rather a Federal issue. We will pursue all levels of appeal until our legal options are exhausted.” “Our position is that we comply with Federal Law and we need clarity. If Congress would pass immigration reform – which is long overdue – it would provide local officials with that clarity. We do not direct our police to enforce federal immigration laws.”
If the ruling is appealed all the way up the ladder, it will go next to Florida’s Supreme Court, then to the U.S. Supreme Court who would have final jurisdiction to answer a Constitutional question raised under state law.
Mr. Lacroix is still being held in federal detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and it’s looking more like his court battle will become America’s primary national test case against President Trump’s “sanctuary cities” executive order.
Here’s the judge’s order: