A long-simmering battle between the Trump administration and California over immigration boiled over Wednesday, with Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions deriding the state’s “irrational, unfair and unconstitutional policies” and Gov. Jerry Brown accusing the federal government of launching “a reign of terror.”
“This is basically going to war against the state of California,” Brown declared.
As the Justice Department formally filed a legal challenge to state immigration laws, Sessions told a gathering of law enforcement officers in Sacramento that California was attempting to keep federal immigration officials from doing their jobs, and he charged Democrats with advancing the political agendas of “radical extremists.”
He took particular aim at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who had warned immigrant communities about recent federal raids in the Bay Area, and at Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, for praising her actions.
“So here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you?” Sessions said of the Brown protege. “Contrary to what you may hear from open-borders radicals, we are not asking California, Oakland or anyone else to actively, effectively enforce immigration laws.”
The remarks drew protests and sharp rebukes from state leaders, underscoring huge rifts over the role of law enforcement in federal immigration policy.
President Trump has made restricting immigration a central focus of his agenda and has frequently criticized California for resistance to his calls to increase deportations. On Wednesday, the White House confirmed that Trump would make his first visit to California since becoming president next week, to assess prototypes for the border wall he wants built between California and Mexico and to attend a GOP fundraiser.
California Democratic leaders and the state’s top law enforcement officer responded with war talk of their own, describing Sessions’ actions as unprecedented. In fiery tweets, speeches and at a news conference at the Capitol, the Democrats said the Justice Department lawsuit is based on lies and challenges California’s sovereignty.
The governor called Sessions’ actions a political stunt, aimed at distracting the public from guilty pleas made by Trump’s advisors in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Let’s face it, the Trump White House is under siege,” Brown said. “Obviously, the attorney general has found it hard just to be a normal attorney general. He’s been caught up in the whirlwind of Trumpism …