South Bay leaders are rebuking the U.S. Department of Justice for suing California over three new laws designed to protect undocumented immigrants.
“This lawsuit is a misguided waste of federal resources,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an emailed statement. “Much like the [Trump] administration’s indiscriminate approach to immigration enforcement that has entangled hard-working residents, including the recent deportation of a Bay Area nurse and mother of three, wasting time and energy on politically-driven lawsuits will do nothing to make our communities safer.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the suit in a speech Wednesday morning to the California Peace Officers’ Association in Sacramento, where he was greeted by protesters, according to news reports.
“California is using every power it has—and some it doesn’t—to frustrate federal law enforcement,” Sessions told the union. “We are going to fight these irrational, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you and our federal officers.”
The lawsuit challenges three so-called sanctuary state laws passed in 2017. One requires ICE to show businesses a judicial warrant before searching employee records. One prohibits local law enforcement from telling ICE about an immigrant’s jail release date or transferring them into federal custody without a judicial warrant—except in cases involving certain violent crimes. Another requires the state to monitor detention centers where non-citizens are held.
The gist of the argument by the Trump administration is that California violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution in passing legislation that prevents the federal government from enacting its laws. Though such protections in cities, states and counties unofficially known as “sanctuary jurisdictions” don’t prevent ICE from arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants, agency director Thomas Homan, President Donald Trump and Sessions have blamed them for obstructing federal enforcement.
When Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf alerted her city about impending ICE raids, the Trump administration likened her to a gang lookout and blamed her for preventing as many as 800 arrests. In his speech Wednesday, Sessions lambasted her and other California officials who defend undocumented immigrants.
“How dare you,” he said from the podium. “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda.”
The San Jose-based immigrant advocacy nonprofit SIREN—which stands for Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network—denounced the DOJ lawsuit and slammed the police union that invited Sessions out to California to announce the legal action.
CPOA’s embrace of Jeff Sessions’ racist politics is unacceptable. Assm. @LorenaAD80, can you commit to NOT meeting w @CalPeaceOfficer during its Leg Day today? #ICEoutofCA #FueraSessions #NoSanctuary4Hate
— SIREN Bay Area (@SIREN_BayArea) March 7, 2018
Earlier this week, SIREN organized a march through downtown San Jose to call attention to the Trump administration’s heavy-handed immigration enforcement, which has resulted in numerous arrests in Santa Clara County.
Immigrant communities in the South Bay are still reeling from raids that swept across Northern California this past week and that reportedly led to more than 232 arrests over the course of a few days. The Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network—a hotline that sends volunteers to monitor suspected ICE raids—received about 500 calls from Feb. 25 to 28. At least 10 arrests took place in the South Bay, according to immigrant advocate Rosa De Leon, who works for the charitable nonprofit Sacred Heart Community Services.
Though local leaders have espoused support for immigrants, De Leon said they should have done more to warn people of rumored enforcement sweeps. Indeed, Liccardo was recently criticized for failing to convey enough urgency when he heard reports about the same ICE crackdown that compelled the Oakland mayor to warn her city late last month.
“It is important that they take a stronger stand and adopt strong local policies to protect immigrant families,” DeLeon said in an interview on Wednesday. “During these times, public statements are not enough.”