Updated 10:22 a.m.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to local and state law-enforcement officials in downtown Sacramento this morning, where he criticized California immigration laws that obstruct enforcement of federal rules — and announced a lawsuit against the state.
“California, we have a problem,” he began his speech, describing new laws that prevent state cooperation with federal immigration agents as “harmful to Californians” and “especially harmful to our law enforcement.”
The attorney general referred to California officials as “open borders radicals.”
In response, Gov. Jerry Brown held a press conference and called Sessions’ appearance at the California Peace Officers Association gathering a “political stunt.”
“This is really unprecedented,”said Brown after Sessions’ speech, “for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to come out to California and act more like Fox News.”
He also called the Trump administration “full of liars."
“This is basically going to war against the state of California,” Brown said. “This is pure red meat for the base.”
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against California, Brown and Attorney General Xavier Becerra yesterday. It accuses the state of blocking federal immigration enforcement efforts.
The suit heightens tensions between California and the Trump administration, and sets up a judicial showdown over the scope and degree of state cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
In Sacramento this morning, Sessions questioned California’s so-called “sanctuary state” policies. “It cannot be that someone who illegally crosses the border and two days later arrives in Sacramento … is home free, never to be removed. How can that be?” he asked.
He says his department is simply asking California to allow ICE agents to do their job. “Contrary to what you might hear from open borders radicals,” Sessions told the audience, “we are not asking California or Oakland or anywhere else to actively, effectively enforce immigration laws.”
He added that “ICE agents do incredible work every day, they’re not backing down, they’re not going to be deterred, and we’re not going to stop enforcing the law in Alabama, or California, either, for that matter.”
Outside the downtown Kimpton Hotel where Sessions appeared, hundreds of activists chanted before his 8:15 a.m. speech. They also shut down a major commuter thoroughfare during the protest, and marched through the streets.
After the march, protesters congregated outside the Kings basketball arena, where state and local lawmakers rallied the crowd.
In a speech to protesters, state Sen. Pro Tem Kevin de Leon called Sessions’ policies "white nationalism and white supremacy.” He also said that he spoke with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on possible responses to the DOJ’s lawsuit, and said that Legislature will have a response later today.
In remarks during a press conference, Attorney General Becerra argued that California’s laws deterring cooperation with ICE are constitutional. “California has exercised its rights to define the circumstances where state and local law enforcement may participate in immigration enforcement," he said.
In his speech, Sessions said he does not “want to be in this position of having to challenge these [California] laws" but that he can’t sit by while the federal government is flouted.
The attorney general spoke directly to law enforcement during his approximately 30 minute speech. "You are professionals. You understand the risks involved,” he told them.
He also continued to play up this relationship with remarks directed at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who warned of impending ICE raids last month. "How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement,” Sessions said to the mayor.
Schaaf responded via Twitter: “Now is good time to remind our community Oakland's violent crime rate has dropped dramatically in the last five years.”
This story is developing. Please return later today for updates.
Sacramento immigration protesters block downtown traffic as Attorney General Jeff Sessions prepares to speak inside hotel pic.twitter.com/YDOxJQLd7S— Nick Miller (@NickMiller510) March 7, 2018