Speaking to law enforcement officers in California on Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted the mayor of Oakland for thwarting sweeps by federal immigration agencies. At the event in Sacramento, Sessions compared California’s new laws offering sanctuary to illegal immigrants the history of southern slave states that sought to nullify federal laws. 

The speech followed the filing of a lawsuit by the Justice Department on Tuesday against California officials over three state laws that were passed last year. The Trump administration argues that the state laws violate the US Constitution. One of the laws bars private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration agencies, while another bars local and state law enforcement from informing federal officials of the release of immigrants in local or state custody. The third state law permits state officials to inspect federal immigration detention centers

In a speech to California sheriffs and police, Sessions said that sanctuary jurisdictions are forcing a “radical open borders agenda” on the rest of America. He defended his decision to file suit against the State of California, which passed laws last year that he says come athwart the federal government’s efforts to stem illegal immigration. 

"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.'"

Taking aim specifically at Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, Sessions said she aided illegal immigrants to elude arrest by federal agents last month when she warned them of forthcoming raids immigration raids. Earlier, Acting Director Thomas Homan of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security also denounced Oakland’s mayor. Sessions said, “Here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement to promote a radical open borders agenda.”

Defending her policy, Schaaf has claimed that she wants to inform illegal immigrants of their rights, and keep their families together. Winning praise from fellow Republicans in the Golden State, Schaaf said she is willing to go to jail over her defiance.

In 2017, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed three measures into law that limit cooperation that police can provide to federal immigration authorities. Businesses are also prohibited from cooperating. 

Under the Constitution, Sessions said, California’s sanctuary laws interfere with the federal government, which has supreme authority over immigration. “There is no nullification. There is no secession,” he said. “Federal law is ‘the supreme law of the land.’ I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled.” 

Saying that the new laws are “an embarrassment” to California, Sessions wondered how some would react to states that might pass laws to interfere with the Environmental Protection Agency’s targeting of polluters.

In advance of Sessions’s speech, Gov. Brown tweeted, “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America," Brown said. "Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don't work here. SAD!!!"

Here follows an excerpt from Attorney General Sessions's speech:

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. Surely, we should be able to agree on this much. To carry out the intent of our laws, we need law officers. We need our Immigration and Customs Officers and our Customs and Border Protection officers.

They are your brothers and sisters. President Trump, the Congress, and the American people want them to accomplish the goals our laws set out for them. That’s why we pay them. But, California, we have a problem. A series of actions and events has occurred that directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers. For example, 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.

There’s no other way to interpret her remarks. To make matters worse, the elected Lieutenant Governor of this state praised her for doing so. Bragging about and encouraging the obstruction of our law enforcement and the law is an embarrassment to this proud and important state. Tom Homan, Acting Director of ICE has said that “being a law enforcement officer is already dangerous enough, but to give the criminals a heads up that we're coming in the next 24 hours increases that risk. I watch [the mayor’s] statement when she said her priority is the safety of her community, but what she did has the exact opposite effect.” According to Acting Director Homan, ICE failed to make 800 arrests that they would have made if the mayor had not acted as she did. Those are 800 wanted aliens that are now at large in that community—most are wanted criminals that ICE will now have to pursue with more difficulty in more dangerous situations, all because of one mayor’s irresponsible action. So here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement just to promote your radical open borders agenda.

But in California, we have an even bigger problem than just one mayor. The problems continue. For example, in January, Ventura County declined a request from ICE to hold an alien Ventura had arrested for continuous sexual abuse of a child. Instead of being removed from this country, he was released back into the community and now our federal law enforcement will need to find him and arrest him wherever he may be. In recent years, California has enacted a number of laws designed to intentionally obstruct the work of our sworn immigration enforcement officers—to intentionally use every power it has to undermine duly-established immigration law in America. California won’t let employers voluntarily allow ICE agents on their property.

And California requires employers to give notice to employees before ICE inspects their workplace. When this law was before the California General Assembly, a Judiciary Committee report explicitly stated that its goal was to frustrate “an expected increase in federal immigration enforcement actions.”



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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