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CA9 (2-1) on Cal. AB 32: GEO Group v. Newsom

October 05, 2021 (2 min read)

GEO Group v. Newsom

"In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill, AB 32, that phases out all private detention facilities within the state. But because of seasonal and other fluctuations in immigration, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) relies exclusively on private detention centers in California. California’s law would thus compel the United States to shutter all ICE detention centers within the state. In contrast, AB 32 carves out many exceptions for the state’s various private detention centers. The United States—along with The GEO Group, Inc., a company operating two of the private immigration detention centers—sued California and sought a preliminary injunction, arguing that AB 32 conflicts with federal law and violates intergovernmental immunity. The district court ruled largely in favor of California, holding that the wellbeing of detainees falls within a state’s traditional police powers. We disagree: California is not simply exercising its traditional police powers, but rather impeding federal immigration policy. Under our preemption principles, states may not enact laws that hinder “the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.” Hughes v. Talen Energy Mktg., LLC, 136 S. Ct. 1288, 1297 (2016). Immigration—in particular, the detention of undocumented immigrants and those slated for removal—falls within the core of exclusive federal powers. And Congress has given the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary the statutory authority to contract with private detention facilities. AB 32, however, intrudes into the federal sphere of authority by barring the Secretary from exercising his or her statutory power. California’s law also does not pass muster under the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity, which prevents states from directly regulating or discriminating against the federal government. California has discriminated against the United States because AB 32 provides certain exemptions for state agencies without offering comparable ones for the federal government. We reverse the district court’s orders (i) granting California’s motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings and (ii) denying the United States’ and GEO’s motion for a preliminary injunction. ... We profess no opinion on the wisdom of California’s law banning private detention centers or the policy implications of so-called “for-profit prisons.” California can enact laws that it believes are best for its people. But California cannot intrude into the realm of the federal government’s exclusive powers to detain undocumented and other removable immigrants if the state law conflicts with federal law and violates the intergovernmental immunity doctrine. The district court’s orders granting Appellees’ motions to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings and denying Appellants’ motion for a preliminary injunction are REVERSED. The case is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

MURGUIA, Circuit Judge, dissenting: "I would uphold the district court’s determination that the presumption against preemption has not been overcome by Congress’s “clear and manifest” intent with respect to the ICE facilities at issue in this case. In other words, AB 32 is not preempted, and the United States and GEO are not entitled to a preliminary injunction on this claim."