Is California headed for a showdown with President Trump over immigration?

FILE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on August 31, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.
FILE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on August 31, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Ralph Freso/Getty Images

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California law lets college students without legal immigration status pay in-state tuition, just as legal California residents do. Another recently-enacted law provides state-funded health insurance for unauthorized immigrant youths under 19. And Los Angeles police have a longstanding policy that prevents police from questioning people for the purpose of determining their immigration status.

These and other policies run counter to the views embraced by President-elect Donald Trump during his campaign. Trump vowed to deport unauthorized immigrants, and has said he will pull federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities,” a term that's loosely applied to municipalities that have immigrant-friendly policies.

Since Trump's victory Nov. 8, several California agencies have stated that they'll hold firm to their policies regarding immigrants and won't aid in deportations:

Some also anticipate potential clashes, with state and local governments conflicting with a Trump administration, depending on which immigration policies the incoming administration pursues.

"Even though federal authorities have paramount authority in immigration, it is going to be difficult for them to implement any policy without at least some cooperation from local governments and local law enforcement," said Raphael Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Los Angeles.

"So this could become a real struggle," he said, "a real political and fiscal struggle.”

Experts say that struggle could lead to lawsuits flying in both directions, from a Trump administration seeking changes and from state and local agencies fighting those changes.

Federal dollars make their way into all manner of state and local programs. For example, the Cal State system gets about $996 million a year in federal support for financial aid, according to Cal State Long Beach spokeswoman Toni Molle.

The Cal State system gets almost $400 million more in grants and contracts for teacher programs, minority services and research, among other things.

Federal funds flow into the state's budget for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. California recently began providing full-scope Medi-Cal for immigrant kids under 19 who don’t have legal status. Even though the state pays for that, it could still come under scrutiny. The state could also lose some Medi-Cal funding if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled.

But experts warn that pulling federal funds from state programs might be more easily said than done.

"Money that comes to states, cities and counties has gone through a process," Sonenshein said. "If they have met requirements that were either under federal law or under the process for which they applied, that introduces a complication."

For example, cutting off certain types of funding would require federal agencies to set new rules, which can take time and touch off legal battles, he said. 

Meanwhile, Trump recently softened his tone during an interview on "60 Minutes," saying he'd be targeting unauthorized immigrants with criminal records — not unlike the stance President Barack Obama has so far embraced. On the campaign trail, Trump often spoke of deporting all of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

On Friday, California Trump campaign spokesman Jon Cordova said that "there is going to be an active effort to deport criminals. Violent criminals at first, that are here illegally."

Cordova added that for now, the Trump camp is focused on the transition to power.