Justice Department to sue California over 'sanctuary' laws

Posted at 9:05 PM, Mar 06, 2018

The Department of Justice is suing to block California laws that extend protections for immigrants living in the United States illegally, commonly referred to as "sanctuary laws."

The lawsuit by the Trump administration claims three of the state's laws intentionally undermine federal immigration law, according to The Associated Press.

One of the laws prevents local police agencies from asking people about their immigration status or assisting in federal immigration enforcement activities. The Justice Department says these laws are unconstitutional.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking at a law enforcement event in Sacramento Wednesday, said the administration's lawsuit against California was to "invalidate these unjust immigration laws" because the state's laws are a "violation of common sense."

Sessions told those in attendance at the California Peace Officers Association's Legislative Day that the state has "a problem" and told California officials to "stop actively obstructing law enforcement … stop protecting lawbreakers."

The attorney general singled out Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who recently issued a public warning of an impending immigration raid in her city. Sessions claims that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers "failed to make 800 arrests" because of Schaaf's statements.

Prior to Sessions' remarks, dozens of protesters gathered outside of the Sacramento hotel where the event was held. No arrests were immediately reported.

Gov. Jerry Brown said in response to Sessions' remarks, "This is really unprecedented for the chief law enforcement of the United States to come out to California and act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer. This is a political stunt … it's not about the truth, it's not about protecting our state. It's about dividing America. This is a time to build bridges, not walls; to pull Americans together, not set us apart. Like many in the Trump administration, this attorney general has no regard for the truth … what he said earlier today is not true, it is a lie."

"We're going to carry on, protect our citizens from criminals and improper abuse of the law. There are problems with immigration, but we ought to work together … We want transparency, we want integrity and we want to protect the people of California. The federal government ought to do its job and not blame California for its own inability to solve the problem, whether its crime or immigration," Brown added. "Despite what he's done, I'll put my hand out and say, "I'll cooperate, Jeff.'"

"Washington, D.C., the Trump administration, has failed utterly to help us fix a very broken immigration system," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. "These actions take us nowhere."

"We respect the law and the Constitution. We expect the federal government to do the same … Our state laws or fully constitutional," Becerra added.

"This lawsuit is going to last longer than the Trump administration," Brown said.

California has often taken steps against the Trump Administration's efforts to enforce federal compliance with immigration policies. Gov. Brown signed a bill in October 2017 to declare California a so-called "sanctuary state."

Last month, President Trump said, "If we ever pulled our ICE out, if we ever said, 'Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,' in two months they'd be begging for us to come back. They would be begging ... And you know what, I'm thinking about doing it."

Trump is expected to visit the San Diego area sometime in March to inspect border wall prototypes constructed near Otay Mesa.