You could see it in their eyes, and hear it in their voices, on Wednesday: Governor Jerry Brown and the rest of the Democratic Party clique that runs this one-party state knew that they had lost as soon as the Attorney General filed his lawsuit against California’s “sanctuary state” statutes.
Brown flew into a tantrum. Never particularly warm towards opposition — he was downright irascible when Neel Kashkari cleaned his clock in the sole gubernatorial debate of 2014 — Brown is so used to getting his way in this one-party state that he seemed shocked Wednesday by the very idea that anyone would dare to push back.
The governor offered the following points in rebuttal to Sessions’s clear and cogent case that the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause forbade California from blocking the enforcement of federal immigration law:
1. Sessions is a liar. “The Trump administration is full of liars. They [sic] pled guilty already to the Special Counsel.”
2. Sessions is from Alabama — “a fellow from Alabama coming to talk to us about secession and protecting human and civil rights.
3. Sessions is a Nazi. “We don’t need a Gestapo kind of tactic with vitriol spewing out of Jeff Sessions’s mouth. “
4. Sessions is … a French revolutionary. “The attorney general is basically initiating a reign of terror.”
5. Sessions is sucking up to President Trump. “Jeff thinks that Donald will be happier with him and I’m sure Donald will be tweeting his joy at this particular performance.” (Trump has not tweeted about it.)
California Attorney General Becerra’s line of attack was simple denial.
He denied there was any conflict between state and federal laws and officials, claiming that the two had “worked in concert” — despite the public irritation of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at state and local officials’ efforts to block and undermine their efforts in recent months.
He denied there was anything unconstitutional about the AB 450 law — though he admitted it only allowed business owners to cooperate with ICE if the feds had the right “documents” (i.e. a warrant). Apparently we are meant to forget all the times he threatened business owners with prosecution.
He denied that there was anything from with AB 103, which allows the state to inspect illegal aliens being held by federal authorities, effectively giving California oversight over ICE. Even the Los Angeles Times found that law to be “potentially vulnerable” in its sober roundup of expert views.
And Becerra denied that SB 54, the so-called “California Values Act,” violates the Constitution. It prevents state and local authorities from reporting illegal aliens who were arrested for other crimes to ICE, essentially aiding and abetting the violation of federal immigration law. Nothing wrong with that!
Brown and Becerra said that nothing stops ICE from coming to California’s jails and looking for illegal aliens. In response, ICE Acting Director Tom Homan told Fox and Friends on Thursday that they were “plain wrong.”
He cited the California State Sheriffs’ Association, who said Wednesday that SB 54 “restrict[ed] our communications with federal law enforcement about the release of wanted, undocumented criminals from our jails, including known gang members, repeat drunk drivers, persons who assault peace officers, serial thieves, animal abusers, and other serious offenders.”
Notably, at his press conference Wednesday, Brown did not defend Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who tipped off illegal aliens about an impending ICE raid in Northern California last month.
For her part, Schaaf opted for the last resort: she called Sessions a “racist,” accusing him of “trying to frighten the American public into thinking that all undocumented immigrants are dangerous criminals.” It was as if the problem that some illegal aliens are, indeed, dangerous criminals did not exist.
At no point did Brown, Becerra, Schaaf or anyone else cite any constitutional or legal authority for their “sanctuary state” policies. And when confronted on the constitutional point, they simply lied.
I personally had the opportunity to ask State Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León and State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to explain how what California was doing was any different than what the Jim Crow states of the (Democratic) South did to resist federal civil rights laws.
Jones answered: “We’re talking about a set of rights that people have constitutionally that we’re defending through state law. It’s very different from Southern states that were seeking to take away rights, to subjugate, to oppress people. It’s dramatically different.”
Really? Do illegal aliens have all the rights of citizens, or even legal immigrants, under the U.S. Constitution? He just made that up.
For the first time in recent memory, California’s Democratic leaders are afraid. They thought they could get away with nullification simply because they face no effective opposition. The “resistance” to the Trump administration was fun, and good for fund-raising, until the administration “resisted” back.
Jerry Brown loves to troll Republicans — like the time he sent a flash drive of climate data to Dr. Ben Carson. But he doesn’t like being trolled. “This has never happened before, to my knowledge, in the history of California,” he complained on Wednesday, calling Jeff Session’s speech a political stunt.
Do not underestimate the power of Sessions’s gesture. California conservatives have despaired of seeing the Republican Party ever win statewide office, thanks to the new “jungle” primary system unwisely pushed by GOP moderates. Conservatives have also been betrayed by the few Republicans left in the state legislature, who are easily bought off with pork projects and photo opportunities.
Jeff Sessions brought a ray of hope to conservatives — and, really, to all Californians. He reminded state officials that there are limits to their power — that Democrats may win elections, but the Constitution still reigns supreme.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.