California at 'war' with Washington over immigration: governor

Noah Berger and Paul Handley, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 08 2018 07:06 AM

Manuel Romero, who hasn't seen his family for 17 years, is hugged at an event to reunite immigrants with their families from Mexico in Los Angeles, California, US Saturday. Kyle Grillot, Reuters

SACRAENTO - California Governor Jerry Brown accused the Trump administration Wednesday of launching a war over the state's protections for illegal immigrants, after the Justice Department sued to block its sanctuary laws.

"This is basically going to war against the state of California, the engine of the American economy. It's not wise, it's not right, and it will not stand," said Governor Jerry Brown.

Brown was visibly angry after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking in Sacramento, accused the state of deliberately obstructing enforcement of federal law by offering undocumented immigrants sanctuary protections to dodge arrest and deportation by immigration agents.

"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 told a group of law enforcement officials.

Late Tuesday the Justice Department sued to overturn three California statutes that render it more difficult for officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to obtain the cooperation of local officials and private employers to make arrests.

"Immigration law is the province of the federal government," Sessions said.

"A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law.... And it creates an open borders system. Open borders is a radical, irrational idea that cannot be accepted."

'SANCTUARY STATE' 

The lawsuit, filed in the federal court in Sacramento, steps up President Donald Trump's battle to cut back legal immigration and step up deportation of people without immigration papers.

That threatens millions of people who, though without legal papers, have built lives, families and companies across the country, many over decades.

California, one of the country's largest, wealthiest and most progressive states, has battled with the administration since Trump took office in January 2017 over his immigration crackdown.

California is home to the largest number of undocumented immigrants, nearly one-quarter of the estimated 11 million in total across the United States.

Last October Brown declared all of California a "sanctuary state" in an open challenge to the Trump administration.

Many localities have also declared themselves sanctuaries, fettering their cooperation with ICE and CBP.

On February 24 Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, California issued an open warning to cities in the San Francisco Bay area that ICE was preparing a soon to be launched operation to round up vulnerable immigrants.

Sessions said Wednesday that the raid would have netted some 800 arrests if Schaaf had not issued her warning.

"The mayor of Oakland has been actively seeking to help illegal aliens avoid apprehension by ICE. Her actions support those who flout our laws and boldly validate the illegality," he said.

"Here's my message to Mayor Schaaf: how dare you? How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement officials just to promote a radical open borders agenda?"

'DISCORD AND DIVISION' 

Brown lashed back defiantly after Sessions spoke not far from the governor's offices.

"This is really unprecedented for the chief law enforcement officer 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," he said.

"What Jeff Sessions said is simply not true. And I call upon him to apologize to the people of California (for) bringing the mendacity of Washington to California, and trying to insert discord and division, and I might add, dysfunctionality, in a state that is really working."