There is no question that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had an obvious first target in his effort rein in lawless sanctuary jurisdictions and the politicians who defend them. The three laws enacted by California in 2017 moved it into sanctuary statehood status – in direct conflict with the Federal government role in setting immigration policy, according to the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department this week.
Gov. Jerry Brown reacted with predictable hyperbolic flair and outrage telling PBS’ Newshour the Trump administration was engaging in “gutter politics” and “sowing discord” among the American people.
“He’s going after men, women, and children, some who have worked 10 or 20 years picking our food, washing our dishes, building houses,” adding that “we don’t need a Gestapo-kind of tactic with vitriol spewing out of Jeff Sessions’ mouth.”
Similar overreach came from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who tipped off Bay Area residents to pending immigration raids and put the lives of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in harm’s way.
The Justice Department asserts in the lawsuit that California’s sanctuary policies have created an “atmosphere of defiance” which places the lives of federal agents at risk.
The Justice Department says the laws, “reflect a deliberate effort by California to obstruct the United States’ enforcement of federal immigration law.”
Schaaf issued a statement in response to Sessions’ Tuesday rebuke of her actions, saying “we will continue to inform all residents about their Constitutional rights, and we will continue to support California’s sanctuary status.”
With the fire and fury dying down (a little), the lingering question is whether the attorney general challenges other sanctuary jurisdictions and/or politicians like Schaaf that go beyond withholding cooperation to actively interfering with the enforcement of U.S. immigration law.
If Sessions goes on the road, there are plenty of options ahead. In addition to California, the states of Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont, as well as more than 300 municipalities across the nation, have enacted some manner of sanctuary law.
He could narrow the list down to the 23 jurisdictions that were sent letters in January ordering them to demonstrate they were not implementing sanctuary policies. A failure to show they were not in compliance with federal laws requiring local cooperation on immigration matters would, Sessions warned, result in the issuance of subpoenas.
Just north of the Golden State, Oregon politicians were also playing victim and vowing to fight.
“Oregon will not be bullied by a Trump Administration that is focused on dividing our country. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the rights and values of all Oregonians are protected,” said Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.
For more than 30 years, Oregon has been a sanctuary state, so it was no surprise when the state legislature recently passed two bills permitting DACA beneficiaries to continue to have access to in-state tuition and to renew their driver’s licenses.
Allowing illegal immigrants to hold driver’s licenses is a bold rejection of the will of the people who voted in 2014 to defeat a ballot initiative that would have given four-year driver’s licenses to illegals.
But the Trump administration and Justice Department do have some allies in the sanctuaries, such as the group of Colorado state lawmakers who visited the White House for talks with administration officials about potential consequences for politicians who enact sanctuary policies.
The group included state Rep. Dave Williams, the sponsor of HB 1134, the “Colorado Politician Immunity Act.” The measure would provide a “civil remedy against the state or a political subdivision of the state (jurisdiction) and against its elected officials for creating sanctuary policies.”
In addition, it would allow victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens who had established residency in a sanctuary jurisdiction to file a civil action against either the locality and/or against the elected officials who were responsible for creating a sanctuary jurisdictions, such as those in Aurora and Denver.
FAIR’s David Jaroslav details the revival of efforts to make Maryland a sanctuary state.