California Gov. Jerry Brown derided Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday saying a man from Alabama should not be lecturing his state about upholding civil rights and enforcing immigration law.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed a suit against the state of California modeled after one brought against Arizona by former President Barack Obama’s DOJ, which affirmed the federal government’s authority to set immigration policy.
The lawsuit alleges obstruction of federal immigration enforcement and targets “sanctuary state” laws passed by the legislature in 2017.
One statute prohibits state and local officials from sharing information with federal immigration officers and also bars the transfer of certain immigrants into federal custody. Another forbids private employers from cooperating with the federal government regarding immigration enforcement at the workplace.
“Immigration is the province of the federal government. It’s in the Constitution,” Sessions told a gathering of law enforcement officers in Sacramento on Wednesday. “There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land.”
“I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg or to the tombstones of (slavery and states’ rights advocate) John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled,” he added.
“A refusal to apprehend and deport (illegal aliens), especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law. It’s a rejection of law and creates an open borders system,” Sessions contended.
He also pointed out that no nation comes close to the number of legal immigrants the United States allows in each year, which is currently 1.1 million. So the Trump administration, the attorney general stated, is not anti-immigrant, but requires those wanting to enter the country to do so legally.
Brown responded to the Trump administration’s suit and Sessions’ speech in Sacramento by calling them a “political stunt.”
“It is completely unprecedented for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to come out here and engage in a political stunt. Make wild accusations, many of which are based on outright lies,” said the California governor.
“That’s unusual, particularly a fellow coming from Alabama talking to us about secession and protecting human and civil rights,” Brown continued. “I assume Jeff thinks that Donald will be happier with him, and I’m sure Donald will be tweeting his joy at this particular performance.”
“It’s not about law enforcement. It’s not about justice, and it really demeans the high office to which he has been appointed,” the governor concluded.
California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra claimed the sanctuary state laws are consistent with the Constitution and federal law.
“Here in California we respect the law and the Constitution and we expect the federal government to do the same,” he said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Politico reported the DOJ’s suit against California is modeled after the one brought by the Obama administration, which affirmed the federal government’s supremacy over the matter of immigration.
In 2010, then Attorney General Eric Holder sued the state of Arizona over law S.B. 1070, which — in accordance with federal law — required any aliens in the United States to have proper identification at all times, and empowered state law enforcement officers to attempt to determine immigration status during “lawful stop, detention or arrest” for other suspected crimes.
Additionally, it barred state and local officials or agencies from restricting enforcement of immigration laws, and imposed penalties on sheltering, hiring or transporting unregistered aliens.
“Setting immigration policy and enforcing immigration laws is a national responsibility,” Holder stated at the time regarding his decision to sue Arizona over the law. “Seeking to address the issue through a patchwork of state laws will only create more problems than it solves.”
Holder further argued that the Constitution “forbids” Arizona from replacing federal policy “with its own state-specific immigration policy.”
The Supreme Court, by-in-large, agreed with the Obama administration’s argument, finding immigration law is the purview of the federal government. However, it did affirm the ability of state law enforcement officials to seek to ascertain the immigration status of those stopped for other suspected criminal activity.
“The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. “Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”
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