Local immigration activists and elected officials this week condemned 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 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.’’
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,’’ Session said. “We are simply asking California and other sanctuary urisdictions to stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement,’’ he 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.’’
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is contemplating a run for the presidency in 2020, called the lawsuit a waste of “time and resources.’’
“Standing with immigrants is fundamental to who we are as Angelenos, Californians, and Americans — and nothing the Attorney General says … can break our will to keep families together, and our communities whole,’’ Garcetti said. “Imagine if Trump’s Justice Department were to put this much energy into actually solving problems.”