The Justice Department sued California late Tuesday, escalating the battle between the Trump administration and local governments over the issue of providing sanctuaries from a crackdown on immigration enforcement.
The lawsuit, which also names Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, challenges three recently passed state laws that the Trump administration says hinder enforcement of federal immigration law and endanger federal agents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the lawsuit Wednesday at an annual gathering of law enforcement organizations in Sacramento.
“California, we have a problem,” Session said. He vowed that the “Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you.”
He also accused Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, of needlessly endangering the lives of law enforcement officers last month when she issued a public warning of upcoming Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids across the Bay Area.
“So here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda,” Sessions said.
In signing the bills into law last October, Brown said they strike “a balance that will protect public safety while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day.”
The laws provide some of the most generous protections in the nation for immigrants facing deportation, but the Justice Department argues that they improperly venture into the enforcement of U.S. immigration law that is strictly a matter for federal authorities.
DOJ lawyers consider the laws to be a novel attempt to regulate federal immigration.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the state capital, Sacramento, challenges three specific laws:
— SB 54, which restricts law enforcement officials from notifying federal immigration agents about the release dates for prisoners in their custody who have been convicted and therefore face deportation. It also prohibits local officials from transferring those prisoners to federal custody.
By Pete Williams for NBC NEWS
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