Gov. Brown Calls Sessions Lawsuit Part of a 'Reign of Terror'

4 min
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses members of the California Peace Officers' Association on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, in Sacramento. Sessions warned California that the federal government would use all its legal powers to fight protections provided to unauthorized immigrants, a day after suing the state over its sanctuary laws. (Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

The war of words between the Trump administration and California's top officials ratcheted up several notches Wednesday, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions telling an audience in Sacramento that the state's sanctuary policies are "irrational, unfair and unconstitutional." He added that laws like SB 54 indicate that California "is using every power it has and powers it doesn't have to frustrate federal law enforcement."

Shortly after Sessions spoke to a California Peace Officers' Association gathering, Gov. Jerry Brown called the Trump administration's lawsuit against California "an act of war" and part of a larger "reign of terror" against the state.

Brown also accused the president and attorney general of lying about California's immigration policy.

People protest outside a speech by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on March 7, 2018, in Sacramento. (Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

"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," Brown said at a packed press conference in the Capitol.

Sessions had particularly tough criticism for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, whose recent warning about impending immigration raids in the Bay Area he called "irresponsible." U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced last week that 232 individuals were arrested in Northern California over a four-day period.

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"So here's my message to Mayor Schaaf," Sessions said. "How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement officers to promote a radical open-borders agenda?"

A Justice Department lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento targets three California laws recently enacted -- SB 54, AB 450 and AB 103 -- which all aim to protect undocumented immigrants from the reach of federal immigration agents.

Outside the Kimpton Hotel where Sessions spoke, several hundred demonstrators protested the speech and the Trump administration's policies.

Demonstrators took to the streets in Sacramento in response to a speech by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Scott Shafer/KQED)

Chanting "Sessions go, immigrants stay" and describing the attorney general as "a fascist Keebler elf," the protesters snaked their way through downtown streets to a plaza next to the hotel. There, state and local officials, including the authors of two of the bills targeted by the lawsuit, spoke to the crowd in defiant tones.

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, whose "sanctuary state bill" SB 54 has drawn particular criticism from the Trump administration, called the lawsuit "insulting."

The administration is "hell-bent on tearing apart working families," de León said, adding the state was on "solid constitutional ground" in defending the laws.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state will vigorously defend its policies. He also emphasized that state and local law enforcement groups cooperate with federal law enforcement agencies in many ways.

"In California we don't confuse coercion with cooperation," Becerra said. "Neither should the Trump administration."

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