In hearing news about so-called "sanctuary jurisdictions," it occurred to me that the states-rights that protected CA cannabis users might provide the same basis to protect an immigrant.

For the sake of discussion, let's reference the situation where someone is in the US without visa / allowed status, and they have committed assault.

Does CA have the same basis to protect such a person, as was done to protect cannabis dispensaries, and users?

Neutral politiking: please don't lambaste the matter of immigration in the comments. This is not a politically-devise question. Feel free to leave answers that reframe the issues involved.

  • One clarification: marijuana users in California are not protected from Federal enforcement of drug laws.
    – user3851
    Aug 1, 2016 at 14:57
  • @Dawn: Nor is anyone protected from federal enforcement of immigration laws. As far as I know, the only "protection" in either case relates to the extent to which state and/or local authorities will help to enforce federal law, or aid federal law enforcement in doing so. Aug 1, 2016 at 16:27
  • The memorandum is here: oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/1607.pdf
    – user6726
    Aug 1, 2016 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


It's important to note that in both cases the "protection" is of a particular limited kind: that state and local police and law enforcement will refrain from enforcing those federal laws (regarding marijuana or immigration). There is nothing to stop federal law enforcement officers (DEA, FBI, ICE, etc) from enforcing those laws in California or anywhere else, if the federal government should decide to devote the resources to do so, though they may or may not get much assistance from local authorities.

As I understand it, the legal theory behind such policies is that since state/local police departments are run (and funded) by their corresponding state/local governments, those governments have the authority to dictate how those departments spend their time and resources. Under this theory, if a state or local government doesn't think it's a worthwhile priority to enforce certain laws, or to assist federal law enforcement in doing so, they can set policies accordingly for their police departments.

Based on the article you cite, the DOJ obviously believes there are limits to this theory. I don't know whether any courts have ruled on such questions.

  • "state and local police and law enforcement will refrain from enforcing those federal laws" State and local police don't enforce federal laws in the first place.
    – user102008
    Aug 2, 2016 at 21:23
  • @user102008: As far as I know, they are empowered to do so if they choose; for instance, they can arrest people for violation of federal laws, or at the very least detain people until federal officials arrive to arrest them. They can also assist federal officials in doing so; for instance, by promptly reporting suspected violations of federal law. Under the "sanctuary" policies under discussion here, they presumably would choose not to do so. Aug 2, 2016 at 21:39
  • @user102008: For instance, here is a 2005 analysis from the Connecticut Office of Legal Research, which concludes that they can. Aug 2, 2016 at 21:42

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