A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Thursday that most of three California sanctuary laws limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities can continue to be enforced, rejecting the bulk of a suit brought by the Trump administration.

The judges declined to block the most contentious law, Senate Bill 54, which prohibits police and sheriff’s officials from notifying immigration authorities when immigrant inmates are released from prison. In the opinion, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote: “We have no doubt that makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult.” However, he added that the law “does not directly conflict with any obligations” placed on state or local governments by federal law “because federal law does not mandate any state action.”

The court also upheld a California law, Assembly Bill 450, mandating that employers alert employees of any upcoming federal immigration inspection share the inspection results with employees who may not be authorized to work in the U.S. Judge Smith, who was nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush, ruled that the state law “imposes no additional or contrary obligations that undermine or disrupt the activities of federal immigration authorities.”

The court did block part of Assembly Bill 103, which requires the state to review detention facilities where immigrants are held, ruling that a provision requiring the state to review circumstances surrounding the apprehension and transfer of detainees puts an impermissible burden on the federal government.

“Only those provisions that impose an additional economic burden exclusively on the federal government are invalid,” wrote Judge Smith.


The Justice Department sued California over its sanctuary laws in March 2018, with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying that they hindered cooperation between federal and local law enforcement and prevents the government from enforcing federal immigration law. U.S. District Judge John Mendez previously threw out the federal government’s challenge to Senate Bill 54, Assembly Bill 103 and part of Assembly Bill 450.

California officials have said the immigration laws promote trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has repeatedly sued the Trump administration, mostly over immigration and environmental decisions, said the ruling shows that states’ rights “continue to thrive.”

“We continue to prove in California that the rule of law not only stands for something but that people cannot act outside of it,” Becerra said in a statement.

The Justice Department had no immediate comment.

Fox News’ Adam Shaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Attorney General William Barr has ruled that asylum seekers facing removal who show they have a “credible fear” of being returned to their homeland will no longer be eligible for release on bond — meaning they will have to remain in detention while their cases are pending.

The decision is Barr’s first immigration-related ruling since being confirmed as attorney general and comes as the Trump administration clamps down on illegal immigration amid a surge at the border. The attorney general has the authority to overturn prior rulings made by immigration courts, which fall under the Justice Department.


“The question presented is whether aliens who are originally placed in expedited proceedings and then transferred to full proceedings after establishing a credible fear become eligible for bond upon transfer. I conclude that such aliens remain ineligible for bond, whether they are arriving at the border or are apprehended in the United States,” the decision states.

The ruling was almost immediately panned by civil rights and immigration rights groups, with the American Civil Liberties Union calling it unconstitutional and vowing to sue.

“This is the Trump administration’s latest assault on people fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in the United States,” Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “Our Constitution does not allow the government to lock up asylum seekers without basic due process. We’ll see the administration in court.”

Barr’s ruling pertains to those who clear a “credible fear” interview and are facing removal.

The decision doesn’t affect asylum-seeking families because they generally can’t be held for longer than 20 days. It also doesn’t apply to unaccompanied minors.

Barr’s ruling takes effect in 90 days and comes amid a frustrating time for the administration as the number of border crossers has skyrocketed. Most of them are families from Central America who are fleeing violence and poverty. Many seek asylum.

There were a total of 161,000 asylum applications filed in the last fiscal year and 46,000 in the first quarter of 2019, according to the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts.


Sarah Pierce, policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, said the number of decisions by immigration judges that the administration of President Trump has referred to itself for review is unprecedented. The administration — under both Barr and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions — has reviewed a total of 10 immigration rulings. That’s compared to four under all of President Barack Obama’s tenure and nine during George W. Bush’s.

“This has been a really unprecedented use of power to influence the immigration system,” Pierce said.

Fox News’ Bill Mears and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday rejected yearslong proceedings against the accused mastermind of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. The proceedings were conducted by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the military judge in the terrorism case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri improperly presided over the trial at the same time he was seeking a job with the Justice Department (DOJ) as an immigration judge. In the panel’s ruling, Judge David Tatel wrote that retired Air Force Col. Vance Spath’s application for the DOJ position “created a disqualifying appearance of partiality” and vacated all orders issued by Spath in the case after he applied for the job in 2015.

“We cannot permit an appearance of partiality to infect a system of justice that requires the most scrupulous conduct from its adjudicators,” said Tatel, who was joined in the ruling by Judges Judith Rogers and Thomas Griffith.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri has been in U.S. custody since 2002.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri has been in U.S. custody since 2002. (AP)

In a further twist, Col. Shelly Schools, who’d briefly replaced Spath, was also removed after it was revealed that she also sought to become an immigration judge.

The ruling likely means that the prosecution of al-Nashiri in the Cole bombing, which killed 17 American sailors and wounded 37 more while the vessel was being refueled in Yemen’s Aden harbor, will have to begin anew. Al-Nashiri has been in U.S. custody since 2002 but was not arraigned in the Cole bombing until 2011, and the case has been delayed several times over various legal and logistical issues

Spath himself called a halt to proceedings last year following the discovery of microphones in a room where al-Nashiri met with his lawyers, and the lawyers’ subsequent decision to resign from the case for ethical reasons.

The USS Cole bombing killed 17 sailors and injured 37 others in October 2000.  (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis, file)

The USS Cole bombing killed 17 sailors and injured 37 others in October 2000.  (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis, file) (The Associated Press)

Spath touted his role as the presiding judge over al-Nashiri’s case in his employment application, including submitting an order he had issued as a writing sample, the appeals court said. He was hired as an immigration judge last year.

But “while Spath made sure to tell the Justice Department about his assignment to al-Nashiri’s commission, he was not so forthcoming with al-Nashiri. At no point in the two-plus years after submitting his application did Spath disclose his efforts to secure employment” as an immigration judge, Tatel wrote.


The court was also critical of prosecutors, the Justice Department and the Court of Military Commission Review, which upheld many of Spath’s orders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A Florida man who pleaded guilty to sending pipe bombs to prominent critics of President Donald Trump will be sentenced in August rather than September, a judge said Monday.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff set the Aug. 5 date to determine the penalty for Cesar Sayoc after his lawyer, Sarah Jane Baumgartel, said Sayoc was anxious about the sentencing.

Sayoc, 57, could face life in prison for spreading terror in the days leading up to the midterm election last year. One charge carries a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.

His March guilty plea to explosives charges was a deal with prosecutors that eliminated a charge that would have carried a mandatory life prison sentence. Sentencing was originally set for Sept. 12.

He wrote letters to the judge after the plea insisting that he never meant to say he knew the 16 rudimentary pipe bombs could injure someone when he mailed them to addresses in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, California, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.

Cesar Sayoc, left, sits with his lawyers in Manhattan federal court Monday.

Cesar Sayoc, left, sits with his lawyers in Manhattan federal court Monday. ( JANE ROSENBERG)

“The intention was to only intimidate and scare,” he wrote in one letter, a sentiment he repeated Monday when questioned by Rakoff.

He also admitted that he knew the devices he described as “sparkler fireworks” could injure someone if they caught fire or detonated.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Richman said prosecutors would present the judge with an FBI report longer than 100 pages to show the devices could have exploded if they were properly assembled.

Baumgartel responded by saying the defense would show they were not properly constructed.


Sayoc has been held without bail since his late-October arrest outside a South Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van plastered with Trump stickers and images of Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces.

Authorities say he targeted numerous Democrats, including former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, several members of Congress and actor Robert De Niro. He also sent explosives to CNN.

None exploded.

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The Chinese woman accused of lying to briefly gain admission into President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club last month was denied bail Monday by a federal judge, who says there is an “extreme risk of flight” if she were to be set free.

Yujing Zhang, appearing in a West Palm Beach court dressed in a blue jumpsuit with both her wrists and ankles shackled, also pleaded not guilty to federal charges of lying to federal agents and illegal entering.

Federal Magistrate Judge William Matthewman ultimately refused to set bail for the 33-year-old, saying there is an “extreme risk of flight” if she were released. The U.S. doesn’t have an extradition treaty with China.

Matthewman remarked that “it appears to the court that Ms. Zhang was up to something nefarious” — a reference to the various electronics she was found to be carrying and that she left in her hotel room. Zhang, however, has not been charged with espionage.


Zhang was arrested March 30 after Secret Service agents say she gained admission to Mar-a-Lago by falsely telling a checkpoint guard she was a member.

The agents say she told a clerk inside she was there for a nonexistent Chinese American event.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A woman arrested at President Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club last month had $8,000 in U.S. and Chinese currency in her hotel room as well as a signal detector meant to spot hidden cameras, a federal prosecutor in Florida said Monday.

Yujing Zhang, 32, was ordered held until her bond hearing resumes April 15 in West Palm Beach federal court. Zhang was arrested on March 30 and was charged with unlawfully entering a restricted area and making false statements to federal law enforcement.

Prosecutor Rolando Garcia told U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman that the government was not making allegations of spying against Zhang at this time, but noted there are “a lot of questions that remain to be answered.”


Garcia told the judge that Zhang approached a checkpoint at the club and told a Secret Service agent that she wanted to use the pool, but was not wearing a bathing suit. She was carrying two Chinese passports, which she showed as identification.

Officials said Zhang made it past the checkpoint “due to a potential language barrier issue” after a club manager thought she was the daughter of a member with the same surname.

Once inside, Zhang allegedly told a front-desk clerk she was there for a nonexistent United Nations Chinese American Association event. After Secret Service agents were summoned, Zhang allegedly contradicted her earlier story by saying she had come early to the event to familiarize herself with the club and take photos. She showed the responding agent a Chinese-language invitation that he said he could not read.

The agent, Samuel Ivanovich, said Zhang was removed from the property and told she could not be there. She was arrested after Secret Service agents found her carrying four cellphones, an external hard drive and a thumb drive with computer malware installed.


In addition to the cash, Garcia told Judge Matthewman that agents found a cell phone, several credit cards, nine USB drives and five USB cards in her room. The prosecutor added that the currency contradicted Zhang’s claim to police that she had only $5,000 in a Wells Fargo bank account.

President Trump was staying at Mar-a-Lago on the weekend of Zhang’s arrest but was not on the property at the time.

Fox News’ Ivonne Amor and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A group of immigration attorneys alleges that judges at an El Paso, Texas, immigration court have fostered a “culture of hostility and contempt towards noncitizens” by making inappropriate comments and weakening due process, according to a complaint filed Wednesday.

The complaint alleges that the court’s immigration judges have made inappropriate comments toward immigrants. It said attorneys heard one judge referring to the court as the “Bye-Bye Place.”

“You know your client is going bye-bye, right?” one judge told a lawyer, according to the complaint.


Another called a mentally ill person “crazy” and openly mocked him, the complaint said.

The joint complaint filed with the Justice Department by the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association alleges that immigrants appearing at El Paso Service Processing Center court face some of the “highest obstacles in the nation of due process and fair adjudication of claims.”

The complaint is not a lawsuit. The groups are asking the oversight body of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts, to investigate.

As evidence of their claims, the attorneys cite the El Paso court’s granting of fewer than 4 percent of asylum cases between fiscal years 2013 and 2017, according to the complaint. Nationwide, around 40 percent of asylum seekers are approved.


Kathryn Shepherd, an attorney for the American Immigration Council, called the court dysfunctional and abusive.

As an example, the court limits the amount of evidence asylum seekers can submit in their cases, the complaint said. Others include barring attorneys from representing their clients by phone, which reduces immigrants’ access to representation.

“This is just barely scratching the surface of the devastating impact of this toxic court because we will never know how many lives have been ruined or harmed as the result of this court’s practices,” Shepherd said.

Central American migrants wait for food in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in a pen erected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors. (Associated Press)

Central American migrants wait for food in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in a pen erected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors. (Associated Press)

A spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Immigration Review told the Associated Press the agency would not comment on the complaint.


The allegations come as the number of immigrants crossing the border in El Paso has swelled. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said the border is at its “breaking point” during a visit to El Paso last month.

Most of the migrants are Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty, and many are seeking asylum. President Trump has threatened to close the southern border, blaming Mexico for not doing enough to stop the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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A U.S. Appeals Court says the parents of Kate Steinle, who died in 2015 after an undocumented man shot her as she walked with her father on a San Francisco pier, cannot sue the city whose sanctuary policies were widely blamed for the tragedy.

Steinle’s killer, Jose Inez Garcia-Zarate, was released by the San Francisco sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, after a drug case against him was dropped. The sheriff’s office, which had ended contact between jail employees and immigration officials, ignored a request by federal authorities to hold Garcia-Zarate until they could assume custody and did not inform them that he was being released.

Three months later, Garcia-Zarate, who had been deported to his native Mexico five times, killed Steinle.


The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously decided to uphold a district court’s 2017 dismissal of Steinle’s parents’ wrongful death lawsuit against San Francisco. The lawsuit maintained that the city’s so-called sanctuary policy and the sheriff bore responsibility for their daughter’s death because it had enabled Garcia-Zarate to roam the streets.

In the 9th Circuit Court decision, Judge Mark Bennett, who was nominated by President Trump, said that while the facts of the case are “undeniably tragic,” the sheriff was well within his authority when he issued a memo that limited his department’s cooperation with immigration officials.

July 2, 2015: Liz Sullivan, left, and Jim Steinle, right, parents of Kathryn "Kate" Steinle, talk to members of the media outside their home in Pleasanton, Calif.

July 2, 2015: Liz Sullivan, left, and Jim Steinle, right, parents of Kathryn "Kate" Steinle, talk to members of the media outside their home in Pleasanton, Calif. (Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)


“The tragic and unnecessary death of Steinle may well underscore the policy argument against Sheriff Mirkarimi’s decision to bar his employees from providing the release date of a many times convicted felon to ICE,” Bennett said. “But that policy argument can be acted upon only by California’s state and municipal political branches of government, or perhaps by Congress.”

Federal immigration laws cited by the plaintiffs also did not require Mirkarimi to provide Garcia-Zarate’s release date, Bennett said.

The shooting turned into a major campaign issue in multiple national and local races across the country. Trump repeatedly referred to the shooting during his 2016 campaign to bolster his argument for tougher immigration policies and his opposition to so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration officials.

Groups that support tougher immigration enforcement assailed the appeals court’s decision.

Matthew O’Brien, director of research for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told Fox News that the decision marked “yet another example of judicial activism by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.”


“San Francisco’s prohibition on the sharing of information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was a deliberate and intentional violation of federal law,” O’Brien said. “Overall, the handling of the Steinle matter, by both the courts of the State of California and the federal courts within California, sends a clear message that the Golden State is more interested in sheltering criminal illegal aliens from ICE than it is in protecting the life and safety of U.S. citizens.”

A San Francisco jury in 2017 acquitted Garcia-Zarate of murder, but convicted him of illegal gun possession. Garcia-Zarate said a gun he found on the pier accidentally fired when he picked it up. The gun belonged to a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger and was stolen from his parked car a week earlier.

The bullet ricocheted on the pier’s concrete walkway before it struck Steinle, killing her. Zarate has admitted to shooting Steinle, but says it was an accident. However, the prosecution painted a very different picture, telling jurors that Zarate deliberately shot the gun towards Steinle while "playing his own secret version of Russian roulette."

Garcia-Zarate is also facing federal gun charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.

The gun used in the fatal shooting belonged to a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger who reported it stolen from his car parked in San Francisco. Steinle’s parents also named the federal government as a defendant in their lawsuit because the ranger had allegedly left the gun in plain view in an unlocked car on a downtown street. That part of the lawsuit is moving forward.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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A federal judge in Washington blocked specific Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky on Wednesday, though he stopped short of deciding whether any work requirements are incompatible with the program’s mission to provide health care to underprivileged people.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services’ approval of the Arkansas work requirement was "arbitrary and capricious because it did not address … whether and how the project would implicate the ‘core’ objective of Medicaid: the provision of medical coverage to the needy." The Obama-appointed judge invoked similar language in his ruling on the Kentucky requirement.

Work requirements are already in effect in Arkansas, but Kentucky’s program has been on hold because of lawsuits. Both states want "able-bodied" adults who get health insurance through ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion to work, study, volunteer or participate in "community engagement" activities.

Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said his state would appeal. Bevin has threatened to end Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion covering more than 400,000 people if work requirements are ultimately struck down.


"We have one guy in Washington who thinks he owns Kentucky," said Bevin, apparently referring to the judge. "We’re right, and we’ll be right in the end. And one guy can gum up the works if he wants, for a while, but this, too, shall pass."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, also a Republican, said he was disappointed by the decision and would publicly address it on Thursday.

The GOP leader of the Arkansas Senate said he doesn’t believe the ruling jeopardizes the future of Medicaid expansion, which covers more than 200,000 residents. About 18,000 have lost coverage as a result of the work requirements.

"I don’t think there’s any reason for the state to panic," said Senate President Jim Hendren, who’s also the governor’s nephew. "This is another obstacle in our path to try to do the best we can in Arkansas with the chips the federal government and the judiciary gives us."

States are traditionally allowed broad leeway to set Medicaid benefits and eligibility. Overall, Medicaid is the government’s largest health insurance program, covering about one in five Americans, ranging from many pregnant women and infants to severely disabled people and elderly nursing home residents.

Advocates for the poor say that Medicaid is a health care program and that work requirements have no place in it.

"It is nonsensical and illegal to add obstacles to Medicaid for large groups of individuals who are already working, or full-time health care providers for family members, or suffering chronic health matters," said Jane Perkins, legal director of the National Health Law Program, a nonprofit that sued the government.

"Work should not be a key to health care access."

The Trump administration isn’t giving up, said the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"We will continue to defend our efforts to give states greater flexibility to help low-income Americans rise out of poverty," Seema Verma said in a statement. "We believe, as have numerous past administrations, that states are the laboratories of democracy and we will vigorously support their innovative, state-driven efforts to develop and test reforms that will advance the objectives of the Medicaid program."

President Trump supports work requirements for public programs across the government. Last year, he signed an executive order directing Cabinet agencies to add or strengthen work requirements for programs including subsidized housing, food stamps and cash welfare.

HHS had already acted. Early in the administration, top officials invited states to apply for waivers that would allow Medicaid work requirements. Verma says she believes work is important to improving the health and well-being of Medicaid recipients.


Eight states have had their requests approved, though not all have put their programs in place, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Requests from seven others are pending. In one of those states, Virginia, a work requirement was key to getting the legislature to approve Medicaid expansion.

Nationally, some 12 million people are covered by the Medicaid expansion, a key component of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, adopted by 37 states. Officials in GOP-led states have argued that work requirements and other measures such as modest premiums are needed to ensure political acceptance for the expansion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman collapsed in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday, shortly after the judge in her racketeering conspiracy case asked if she’d secretly retained embattled lawyer Michael Avenatti in a bid to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.

Bronfman was charged in July in connection with the activities of NXIVM, a self-proclaimed self-help organization that authorities say operated as an abusive cult where selected female "slaves" were forced to have sex with leader Keith Raniere and were branded with his initials.

Bronfman is represented by attorney Mark Geragos, who was identified by The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press this week as an unindicted co-conspirator in what federal prosecutors say was a scheme by Avenatti to extort millions from sportswear giant Nike.


Under questioning by U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis, Geragos admitted that he and Avenatti had met with prosecutors on Bronfman’s behalf. New York Post reporter Emily Saul tweeted that Avenatti has not entered a notice that he will appear in court on Bronfman’s behalf, but Geragos has. She tweeted that Geragos told Judge Garaufis that he did not know if Avenatti intended to appear before the court in the Bronfman matter "because of the other case."

It was not clear whether Geragos was referring to the Nike extortion case or a separate case in which Avenatti was charged by federal prosecutors in California with wire fraud and bank fraud.

A few moments later, Bronfman collapsed and was evaluated by medics. She left the courtroom with assistance from Geragos.


The drama played out as part of a so-called Curcio hearing to evaluate whether Geragos can adequately represent Bronfman in the face of a potential conflict of interest. The hearing is scheduled to resume Thursday.

Avenatti was not in the courtroom Wednesday and did not respond to Fox News inquiries about the matter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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