WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court's decision striking down a federal law that barred most sports betting appears to signal trouble for President Donald Trump's administration in its legal fight against so-called sanctuary states and cities, legal experts say.
Seven of the nine justices -- five conservatives and two liberals -- backed a robust reading of the Constitution's 10th Amendment and a limit on the federal government's power to force the states to go along with Washington's wishes.
The federal anti-gambling law is unconstitutional because "it unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion.
Several legal commentators said there is a direct link between the court's decision in the sports betting case and the administration's effort to punish local governments that resist Trump's immigration enforcement policies.
"The court ruled definitively that the federal government can't force states to enforce federal law. In the immigration context, this means it can't require state or local officials to cooperate with federal immigration authorities," said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's immigrants' rights project, said the ruling reinforced decisions from the 1990s, including one that struck down part of a federal gun-control law that required police to determine if buyers were fit to own handguns.
"It reiterates that the real thrust of the 10th Amendment and the principles of law in this area is that the fed government can't tell the states or cities how to legislate," Jadwat said. The amendment says powers not specifically given to the federal government belong to the states.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the decision, but it had called on the court to uphold the federal law at issue by arguing that there was no constitutional violation.
In the most recent ruling about sanctuary cities, the federal appeals court in Chicago held last month that the federal government cannot withhold public safety grants from cities that won't go along with Trump's immigration enforcement policies.
In lawsuits challenging the administration, cities argue that turning local police into immigration officers erodes trust with communities of illegal aliens and discourages them from reporting crime. The administration says sanctuary jurisdictions allow criminals back on the street.
A Section on 05/16/2018
Print Headline: Ruling said to back 'sanctuary' policies