Jeff Sessions Spoke in Sacramento and State Leaders Have a Lot to Say About It

Gov. Brown describes the DOJ’s “sanctuary states” lawsuit as a “war against the state of California”

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III made a stop in California today. He appeared before a friendly audience at a Sacramento conference to officially announce what we already knew: The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the state of California for passing three recent state laws that, DOJ asserts, interfere with federal immigration enforcement.

Attorney General Sessions laid out his argument that California is violating the Constitution by not assisting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions. The lawsuit calls out state laws AB 450, SB 54, and AB 103, claiming these were created explicitly to confront federal authority. Those are the so-called “sanctuary state” statutes, which codified policies that were already in effect in various forms in several cities. These laws include requiring employers tell their staff if there will be an ICE raid at a work site, requiring that California state employees be allowed to inspect any facility where federal immigration agents are detaining people and review how detainees are being treated, and, perhaps most vexingly to the DOJ, prevents local law enforcement from providing certain information about a person’s immigration status to federal agents.

Demonstrators protest recent ICE raids in California

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

He spoke before a meeting of the California Peace Officers Association, a special-interest advocacy group that has opposed all “sanctuary” rules all along. The CPOA also opposes recreational marijuana, opposes requiring children under 15 talk to a lawyer before police interrogate them, opposes public oversight on protocols for law enforcement use of surveillance technology, and opposed releasing a public report of a statewide study of officer-involved shootings.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Sessions told the audience. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe that we are going to win.”

Sessions reserved some special anger for the mayor of Oakland, Libby Schaaf. On February 24, she went on television to divulge that she had been alerted to an ICE enforcement sweep that would to be carried out in the Bay Area the next day. That raid still resulted in federal agents rounding up 150 undocumented individuals, but an ICE spokesperson told The Washington Post they had planned to detain more had it not been for Schaaf’s announcement.

“So here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf,” the Attorney General remarked today. “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda?” (Schaaf’s office released a biting statement in response, closing with the remark that, “Oakland’s agenda is a thriving community. Trump’s agenda is bigotry and petty vindictiveness.”)

Governor Brown, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and other California state leaders have been speaking out with their own responses to the lawsuit and the Attorney General’s visit.


Last month, Sessions determined that North Carolina was within its state rights to pass a “bathroom bill” regulating which restrooms transgendered individuals should use, in spite of previous findings that such a state law would be a violation of federal civil rights law. On that matter, he issued a public statement that, “State legislatures and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue,” rather than needing DOJ to get involved with how states choose to self-govern.

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