SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed today to defend the state against a U.S. government lawsuit that claims three state laws protecting undocumented immigrants are unconstitutional.
Brown called the lawsuit filed in federal court in Sacramento Tuesday “a political stunt” and accused the administration of President Donald Trump of “basically going to war against the state of California.”
“What Jeff Sessions said is simply not true and I call upon him to apologize to the people of California for bringing the mendacity of Washington to California,” said Brown.
Brown and Becerra at a news conference in Sacramento said the three challenged laws are “fully constitutional.”
Watch full press conference:
The 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution “provides California with the right to decline to participate in civil immigration enforcement,” Becerra said.
The two top officials and the state of California are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Justice Department lawyers on behalf of the United States.
They spoke shortly after Sessions addressed law enforcement officers at a separate meeting of the California Peace Officers Association in Sacramento.
Sessions called the California laws “irrational, unfair and unconstitutional.”
He told officers at the meeting, “California is using every power it has, and some it doesn’t, to frustrate federal law enforcement. So you can be sure I’m going to use every power I have to stop them.”
The lawsuit alleges the three laws enacted last year are “a deliberate effort by California to obstruct the United States’ enforcement of federal immigration law.”
One of the measures, entitled the California Values Act, bars local officials from informing federal officials about immigrants’ release dates from jail except in serious criminal cases.
It requires a court warrant before an immigrant can be transferred from local to federal custody and bars local law enforcement officers from asking about individuals’ immigration status during routine interactions.
Brown said when signing it in October that the law doesn’t interfere with the work of federal immigration agencies, but merely “prohibits the commandeering of local officials to do the work of immigration agents.”
The other two laws restrict private employers’ cooperation with immigration officials and require inspections and reviews of immigrant detention facilities in the state.
The lawsuit contends that the U.S. Constitution and laws enacted by Congress give the federal government the “preeminent authority to regulate immigration matters” and that the Constitution does not allow a state to interfere with those powers.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein issued a statement saying “The Trump administration continues to attack California in an attempt to score points with the president’s political base … The state should not be punished for trying to shield immigrants from deportation.”