Attorney General Jeff Sessions pulled no punches when he spoke about California’s sanctuary policies in Sacramento, California, on March 7—the day after the Justice Department sued the state for its policies to shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration authorities.
“Immigration law is the province of the federal government,” Sessions said. “I understand that we have a wide variety of political opinions out there on immigration. But the law is in the books and its purpose is clear.
“There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land.”
Sessions said he isn’t asking California to enforce immigration laws, but rather to just stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement.
“A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law and creates an open borders system. Open borders is a radical, irrational idea that cannot be accepted,” Sessions said.
“The United States of America is not ‘an idea;’ it is a secular nation-state with a Constitution, laws, and borders, all of which are designed to protect our nation’s interests.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit on March 6, aimed at three California bills that the DOJ says intentionally obstruct and discriminate against the enforcement of federal immigration law.
The first bill, Assembly Bill 450, prohibits private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration officials. California Attorney General Becerra warned business owners that they face a fine ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 if they cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The second, Senate Bill 54, restricts state and local law enforcement officials from providing information to ICE about the release date of removable criminal aliens who are in their custody. Instead, the criminals are often released back into the community.
The third, Assembly Bill 103, imposes a state-run inspection and review scheme of the federal detention of aliens held in state and local facilities, according to DOJ.
The Democrat governor of California, Jerry Brown, accused the Trump administration of “basically going to war against the state of California,” in a press conference following Sessions’ speech. “Like so many in the Trump administration, this attorney general has no regard for the truth,” Brown said.
Sessions also took aim at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who recently publicly warned of an impending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation in her area, saying it was her moral obligation.
The operation went ahead and scooped up more than 150 illegal aliens, but missed another 850, which ICE blames Schaaf for.
“Here’s my message for Mayor Schaaf: How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement officers to promote your radical open-borders agenda,” Sessions said.
Acting ICE Director Tom Homan said the mayor’s warning allowed criminals to lie low during the operation.
“The Oakland mayor’s decision to publicize her suspicions about ICE operations further increased that risk for my officers and alerted criminal aliens—making clear that this reckless decision was based on her political agenda in opposition to the very federal laws that ICE is sworn to uphold,” Homan said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement on March 6 that the DOJ lawsuit was an example of “federal government overreach,” and vowed to fight it.
“The 10th Amendment of the Constitution gives the people of California, not the Trump Administration, the power to decide how we will provide for the public safety and general welfare in our state,” Becerra said. “We intend to fight to protect the funding our law enforcement officers deserve.”
The DOJ has previously threatened to withhold federal funding to jurisdictions that enact sanctuary policies that limit cooperation with ICE. After a challenge in court, U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco ruled that the local $1 million grant was too small to justify an injunction while the lawsuit unfolds, given the state’s overall budget.
Reuters contributed to this report.