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How the Supreme Court sports betting decision could support the case for sanctuary states




WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04:  The U.S. Supreme Court is shown on December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC.  The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case tomorrow.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 04: The U.S. Supreme Court is shown on December 4, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court decision to overturn the federal law banning sports betting may end up empowering California in its various challenges against the federal government – including its status as a sanctuary state.

It all boils down to the 10th amendment and states’ rights.

Aaron Caplan, who teaches constitutional law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, explains that the Supreme Court’s decision was not actually focused on the debate of whether sports betting should be illegal. It had more to do with how Congress wrote the law in question.

Instead of declaring that sports gambling is illegal, Congress instead told state legislatures they had to make gambling illegal – and that’s the problem.

Congress can pass immigration laws and Congress can hire people to work for ICE to enforce the immigration laws, but this week’s decision sort of reiterates the idea Congress can’t tell the state government, “Here’s what your law has to be and here’s what your state employees have to do.” State employees are within the control of the state.

How the decision could be used in court to defend sanctuary states

If the federal government were ever to pass a law that said the state governments must have laws allowing their police to transmit information to ICE, that could run into the same kind of problem that the sports gambling law had.

The ruling also throws some cold water on dissenting cities who say their issue with sanctuary state status depends on the federal government’s position.

That’s not going to be a very persuasive argument for the cities at the point. Their argument always was, “Well, gee, the federal government is always telling us we have to do X. We have to give them information about people who may be in violation of immigration laws.”

I don’t know that that was ever true. I don’t think there’s any federal laws that even purport to tell local police, “You must provide information to us.” But, if there was a law like that at the federal level, this week’s decision says it’s got a big constitutional problem with it.

Caplan says the debate between California and its cities regarding the state’s sanctuary status could potentially go to court, but right now it’s not a major legal issue.

They can have a political disagreement about it, but if it goes to court, it’s pretty straightforward. The state law is binding on cities within California and there doesn’t seem to be any federal law telling the state it has to behave differently. And even if there was a law like that, depending on how it’s written, it might be unconstitutional.

After this week’s Supreme Court decision, that much is clear.



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