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Name: In re Jose C.
Case #: S158043
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/02/2009

Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 602, a state court has jurisdiction to declare a juvenile a ward of the court on the basis of the juvenile’s violation of federal immigration law. In 2006, Jose C., a minor, was apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the border as he assisted others to illegally enter the United States. The Imperial County District Attorney filed a juvenile wardship petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602, alleging one count of illegally bringing aliens into the United States. Counsel for Jose C. objected on the grounds that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate federal criminal violations. The Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the United States Constitution’s Supremacy Clause does not preempt section 602. Although Congress bars state courts from entertaining direct criminal prosecutions of federal law (18 U.S.C. sec. 3231), it does not intend to preclude states from determining whether federal immigration law has been violated in state delinquency proceedings because juvenile proceedings are separate and independent from adult proceedings and, as such, do not encroach on exclusive federal court prerogatives for violation of federal law. In addition, the present proceeding does not preempt exclusive federal authority over matters pertaining to immigration as Congress has embraced collaborative federalism whereby the states and localities assist the federal government in the enforcement of immigration policy.