Jeff Sessions, California governor clash over ‘sanctuary' laws

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News that the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of California over so called 'sanctuary laws' brought a lot of criticism from locals we spoke with in MacArthur Park on Wednesday. 

Many we spoke with felt the President is anti-immigrant and is continuing to condone discrimination against those from other countries. 

Local immigration activists and elected officials alike are condemning the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit challenging state laws that offer a level of protection to immigrants in the country illegally, calling it an act of "fear-mongering'' that will not reduce crime.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking in Sacramento, says the lawsuit is about insuring public safety in a state that he says protects the rights of criminal undocumented immigrants under the guise of its liberal sanctuary policies, which basically say that local law enforcement 's job is not the job of ICE agents.  

Sessions detailed the lawsuit Wednesday morning during a meeting of the California Peace Officers Association in Sacramento.

"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,'' Session said.

He said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents "are federal law enforcement officers carrying out federal law. California cannot forbid them or obstruct them in doing their jobs.''

"Stop protecting lawbreakers and giving all officers more dangerous work to do so that politicians can score political points on the backs of officer safety," Sessions said. 

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said Sessions and President Donald Trump "are utilizing the tools of deception and fear mongering to advance a draconian, inhumane and broad anti-immigrant agenda.''

"California has acted to protect all of its residents, the Attorney General's actions to sue California for utilizing its purview to protect its residents is only an indication of the radical agenda of this administration,'' Salas said. "We will not be intimidated by bigotry and fear. California's state constitutional rights and duty is to protect the welfare of our residents from the Trump's administration obsession to persecute immigrants.''

Rusty Hicks, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, called it ironic that Trump would turn to the courts to challenge California, when, "for decades, Donald Trump has used the courts as a financial sanctuary for his bankrupt businesses.''

"The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor welcomes the chance to join in the defense of our rights as Californians," Hicks said.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who authored legislation preventing cities from expanding contracts with for-profit prison companies to detain immigrants, accused Sessions and Trump of ``lying to the American people.''

"This isn't about stopping crime. We have prisons and jails for people convicted of crimes,'' he said. "These are immigrant jails and we don't want them to expand in California.''

The Justice Department lawsuit specifically targets California laws that prevent business owners from helping immigration agents track down workers living in the country illegally, prohibit law enforcement from notifying ICE when immigrants are released from custody and authorize state inspections of federal detention centers.

"Importantly, these laws are harmful to Californians, and they're especially harmful to law enforcement,'' Sessions said. "... We are simply asking California and other sanctuary jurisdictions to stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement,'' he said.

California Governor Jerry Brown and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra fired back during a news conference Wednesday, vowing to fight the government's lawsuit.

"I call upon Jeff Sessions to apologize to the people of California for bringing the mendacity of Washington to California, and trying to insert discord and division, and I might add dysfunctionality in a state that’s really working," Brown said. 

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who openly opposed California's "sanctuary state'' legislation -- Senate Bill 54 -- limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal authorities, said she hopes the Justice Department lawsuit will "provide legal direction on this issue.''

"My hope is that the court will remove SB 54's restrictions on communication,'' she said. "Local law enforcement has no desire to enforce immigration law, however, we must have the ability to work with our federal partners to remove dangerous criminals from our community.''

In Los Angeles, some said they support protections for immigrants in most cases.

"I like the immigrants. I support them, and I think we’re not treating them fairly," said Joanne Mulligan, who was visiting from Massachusetts. 

"There’s like other immigrants that do run into trouble, maybe those are the ones we do need to deport, the ones that aren’t working for their spot," Angelino Crista Ortiz added.

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