- The Trump administration and California are gearing up for a major court battle over “sanctuary cities.”
- The Justice Department sued the state on Tuesday over its laws limiting local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday said he would “use every power I have” to force California officials to cooperate with federal immigration law.
- California officials accused Sessions of “going to war” and “initiating a reign of terror” against the state.
California officials lashed out at the Trump administration on Wednesday, accusing the Justice Department of “going to war” against the state over its so-called sanctuary policies that limit local officials’ cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The Justice Department on Tuesday evening sued California officials over three state laws passed last year, arguing that they violated the US Constitution.
One of the laws bars private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration officials. Another bars local law enforcement from telling federal officials when they plan to release detained immigrants. And a third lets state officials inspect federal immigration detention centers.
California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, said Wednesday that state laws don’t obstruct federal immigration enforcement and that the Trump administration is attempting to infringe on California’s constitutional right to govern itself.
“California is in the business of public safety. We’re not in the business of deportations,” Becerra said. “It’s a low blow for the Trump administration to deny our men and women who wear the badge the funding they need to keep us all safe by coercing us to do what they want us to do.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to Sacramento and gave a speech to peace officers on Wednesday, bashing California officials and laying out the Trump administration’s rationale for the lawsuit.
“California is using every power it has – and some it doesn’t – to frustrate federal law enforcement. So you can be sure I’m going to use every power I have to stop them,” Sessions said. “There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is ‘the supreme law of the land.'”
‘Pure red meat for the base’
California Gov. Jerry Brown demanded in a news conference later on Wednesday that Sessions apologize for his speech, which he called a political “stunt.”
Brown added that Sessions is “initiating a reign of terror” and “basically going to war against the state of California.”
“We know the Trump administration is full of liars. They’ve pled guilty already to the special counsel,” Brown said, referring to the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials.
Maybe Sessions is “trying to keep his job,” Brown said. “A fellow from Alabama talking to us about secession? This is pure red meat for the base.”
The case could lead to a major court battle over 10th Amendment rights, as former Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in a press call on Wednesday. Holder said he’s under contract to give legal advice to California’s state Senate on how to proceed.
Holder said judges have ruled in previous cases that the federal government cannot force a state to use its resources to enforce federal immigration law.
“From my perspective, the Trump administration’s lawsuit is really a political and unconstitutional attack on the state of California’s well-established rights under our system of government,” Holder said, according to The Los Angeles Times.
It’s not the first time the Trump administration has gone after sanctuary jurisdictions, or California in particular. Several other cases are underway throughout the country involving states and localities that sued the Trump administration for trying to block federal grant money over sanctuary policies.
California came under further federal scrutiny after an unauthorized immigrant was acquitted in a state court last December of murdering Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman. The Trump administration – and President Donald Trump himself – frequently blamed Steinle’s death on California’s refusal to hand over unauthorized immigrants to federal authorities.
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has also sought to crack down on California by conducting large immigration sweeps, rounding up hundreds of unauthorized immigrants. Immigration advocates say the arrests are retaliation for California’s “sanctuary” policies, while ICE has accused the state of allowing criminals to run amok.