Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended recent immigration enforcement operations in California, saying there is “nothing wrong” with federal officers arresting illegal immigrants shielded by sanctuary state laws.
“It’s exactly what ICE officers are supposed to do,” Sessions told Fox News host Shannon Bream in an interview that aired Wednesday night.
“Why do we have ICE officers? They’re just going to sit in their offices and do nothing?” he asked.
Sessions’ remarks came amid a broader defense of his department’s legal challenge to California laws that sharply limit cooperation between local officials and immigration authorities. On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sued California — along with Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra — over three state statutes that constitute a “significant intrusion into federal enforcement of the immigration laws.” (RELATED: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Sessions’ Anti-Sanctuary Lawsuit)
Under Sessions, DOJ has tried to pressure sanctuary jurisdictions, California foremost among them, by threatening to withhold certain federal grants. Tuesday’s lawsuit, however, represents a significant escalation in the battle between the Trump administration and liberal states over immigration policy.
California has enacted several laws aimed at shielding illegal immigrants from federal law enforcement. At the beginning of this year, a controversial measure known as SB54 went into effect, limiting cooperation between local police and immigration agents. The state has also moved to bar private companies from voluntarily cooperating with immigration authorities in several important respects.
Sessions said Wednesday that California’s efforts amount to subversion of federal control of immigration policy.
“We wanted a healthy and good relationship with [California], but federal law determines immigration policy,” he told Bream. “The state of California is not entitled to block that activity. Somebody needs to stand up and say no, you’ve gone too far, you cannot do this, this is not reasonable. It’s radical, really.”
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