SACRAMENTO, California — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions compared California’s “sanctuary state” laws to the historic defiance of the South against the federal government in a speech to law enforcement officials on Wednesday.
Sessions addressed the “legislative day” gathering of the California Peace Officers Association (CPOA), hours after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against three of California’s “sanctuary state” laws in federal court Tuesday evening.
The CPOA had opposed one of those laws, SB 54, which restricts cooperation between state and local law enforcement with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and which went into effect in January.
The Attorney General stridently made the case against California’s resistance to federal immigration law, making reference to the South’s stands against the federal government over tariffs and slavery:
Immigration law is the province of the federal government. This Administration and this Justice Department are determined to make it work effectively for the people.
I understand that we have a wide variety of political opinions out there on immigration. But the law is in the books and its purpose is clear.
There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is “the supreme law of the land.” I would invite any doubters to Gettysburg, and to the graves of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln.
A refusal to apprehend and deport those, especially the criminal element, effectively rejects all immigration law and creates an open borders system. Open borders is a radical, irrational idea that cannot be accepted.
Sessions also had harsh words for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who had warned illegal aliens of impending ICE raids late last month: “How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement just to promote your radical open borders agenda.”
Earlier Wednesday, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Sessions had confirmed that the DOJ was investigating Schaaf.
In his speech, Sessions also declared that the state’s sanctuary laws were unconstutional, and explained that he was not demanding that California enforce federal immigration laws.
Rather, he said, “We are simply asking California and other sanctuary jurisdictions to stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement.”
Outside, about three hundred people demonstrated against Sessions and the DOJ lawsuit. They were joined by several state and local Democratic Party officials, including State Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who is running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); and by California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
De León said that Sessions’s “purposeful move” in coming to Sacramento to file the lawsuit was had been “designed to intimidate California.” He dared the federal government to “bring it on” in court.
Breitbart News asked De León and Jones how their stance was different from that of the segregationist states of the South during the Jim Crow era.
Jones — who tweeted “#SessionsNotWelcomeHere” on Wednesday — responded that California was standing up for constitutional rights, whereas the Jim Crow South had been trying to take away rights.
He added: “And for Jeff Sessions to draw that contrast when he came out of the very part of the country that subjugated people, I think is ironic and outrageous.”
Another speaker was a local student who is a beneficiary of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which President Donald Trump canceled (pending court challenges), and which Sessions has declared unconstitutional.
CPOA President and Beverly Hills Police Department Assistant Chief Marc Coopwood said in a statement: “We sincerely appreciate Attorney General Sessions choosing our event to make this announcement.” The CPOA did not take a position on the lawsuit, but Coopwood said the CPOA would “welcome the opportunity to work with all parties of interest on this crucial issue in California.”
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.