Suing California, Sessions vows to 'use every power' to stop state laws on immigration enforcement
Judy Wooruff: The Trump administration is stepping up its campaign against cities that shelter undocumented immigrants. The nation's top law enforcement official made his case in California today, after filing suit against the state.
William Brangham begins our coverage.
Jeff Sessions: California, we have a problem.
William Brangham: Attorney General Jeff Sessions served notice to California, in California: He's going to the mat on sanctuary cities.
Jeff Sessions: California, it absolutely appears to me, is using every power it has, powers it doesn't have, to frustrate federal law enforcement. So you can be sure I'm going to use every power I have to stop them.
William Brangham: His law enforcement audience welcomed the pledge of support. But dozens protested today in Sacramento after news that the Justice Department sued the state in federal court last night. The target, three California laws passed last year that address how the state interacts with federal immigration officials.
One statute bars businesses from cooperating with those immigration agencies without a court order, and requires them to alert workers of impending raids. A second limits police communications with federal authorities when immigrants are about to be released from custody. The third required the state to inspect federal immigrant detention facilities.
Sessions called the laws a violation of the U.S. Constitution, and common sense.
Jeff Sessions: 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. I can't accept that.
William Brangham: That was aimed at Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who sounded the alarm last month about an imminent raid in her city by ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland, California: Residents should know that they do not have an obligation to open their doors if an ICE official knocks.
William Brangham: ICE detained more than 200 undocumented immigrants in those raids, but it said some 800 others avoided the roundup, thanks to the mayor's warning.
Jeff Sessions: Here's my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you? How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda?
William Brangham: The Justice Department now says Schaaf's actions are under review. It had already warned that cities and states with other similar sanctuary city laws might lose federal grants.
But California Governor Jerry Brown answered today that Sessions' new lawsuit amounts to a political show.
Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif.: This is completely unprecedented for the chief law enforcement 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. That's unusual.
William Brangham: Brown and other political leaders in California warned they will fight the feds in court.
Meanwhile, President Trump praised immigration agents at a summit of the Latino Coalition in Washington.
President Donald Trump: The Border Patrol and the ICE and the all of the different people that are working so hard, law enforcement generally, they're working so hard on the drug problem.
William Brangham: The president made no mention of the fight over sanctuary cities.
For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.