SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco officials reacted angrily Wednesday to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department against the state of California over sanctuary laws and a speech given by Attorney General Jeff Session before law enforcement officers in Sacramento.
Acting Mayor Mark Farrell didn’t mince words when asked about Sessions speech that ripped state and local officials for their refusal to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents round up undocumented immigrants.
“This guy (Sessions) is a moron,” said Farrell surrounded by reporters. “It’s more of the same out of D.C. Every single day, they do what they can in the Trump administration to distract from the chaos they have in the White House.”
“They want to come to California, we welcome everybody but that’s the point. We are a sanctuary city here in San Francisco and we are a sanctuary state in California… He comes here to threaten the state of California and make some headlines, distract from what’s happening in D.C., we’re not going to back down.”
“We are a who we are. As mayor I’m going to stick to who we are as a city. We are a sanctuary city. I will defend everyone in this city against that administration. We’ll take it as it comes day by day.”
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Sessions told an annual conference organized by California Peace Officers’ Association that ICE agents “are not backing down, they are not going to be deterred and not going to stop enforcing the law in Alabama or in California either.”
“In California, we have a problem,” the attorney general said. “A series of actions and events has occurred here that directly and adversely impact the work of our federal officers…This is an embarrassment to the proud state of California.”
Sessions told the law enforcement officers that the ICE sweeps in the state have only targeted wanted and convicted felons. That claim was denied strongly by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.
“When less than half of the individuals that ICE recently arrested in a Bay Area raid had a criminal record-and even fewer had a history of violence-the Trump administration’s stated goals of protecting public safety are demonstrably false,” Gascón said. “This is a portrait of dragnet-style immigration enforcement which studies have shown time and time again makes communities less safe, not more.”
“It’s time for the American public to see this racist stunt for what it is: A perverse use of power that prioritizes politics over public safety. These actions are not taken to make America safer, they are being taken to divide Americans.”
San Francisco has been at the center of sanctuary city debate ever since Kate Steinle was fatally shot while walking on a San Francisco pier with her father in July 2015.
An undocumented immigrant Jose Ines Garcia Zarate — who San Francisco authorities did not turn over to ICE agents citing the city’s sanctuary city policy — was charged in the shooting. He admitted to shooting the fatal shot during his trial, but claimed it was an accidental shooting.
A San Francisco jury acquitted Garcia Zarate on the murder charge in December 2017, but did find him guilty of being a convicted felon in possession of a gun.
Garcia Zarate is a seven-time felon who had been deported from the U.S. to Mexico numerous times.