California Attorney General: 'An Executive Order Is Not a Law'

California's attorney general insisted that the jurisdictions within the state are locking up dangerous illegal immigrants despite the Trump administration's argument that sanctuary cities endanger public safety.

Xavier Becerra, former chairman of the House Democratic Caucus who was appointed to fill the attorney general's post vacated by now-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), told CNN on Tuesday after a federal judge granted an injunction against the administration's vow to strip all federal funding from sanctuary cities that the White House is "in denial."

"You just have to read the constitution. It's very simple. You can't force states to do things that the constitution lets them do. And public safety is one of those items that a state has the responsibility to take care of, not the federal government," he said.

The lawsuit was brought by Santa Clara County, later joined by the city and county of San Francisco. Judge William Orrick ruled the federal government is limited to stripping a few law enforcement grants that already carried the condition of cooperation with immigration officials.

The White House has vowed to take the case all the way to the top. "We'll see them at the Supreme Court," President Trump said at an executive order signing today.

"We're locking up violent people, those who are committing serious felonies. They're going to jail. And if they are undocumented, they're likely being deported right after they finish their sentence," Becerra said.

"What we're not interested in doing is doing the work of federal immigration authorities to go hunt down people whether at a grocery store, at a child's school or at a place of worship," he added. "What we're trying to do is make sure that we allow our police officers and our sheriffs to do their work so they can gain the cooperation and the confidence of the people that they can report crime as witnesses, report crime as victims. And we want that relationship to continue."

Asked if he supports efforts to designate California a sanctuary state, the attorney general said he's yet to "find anyone who could define what a sanctuary jurisdiction is, because it means a lot of different things."

"For me, when we talk about sanctuary, we're trying to make sure that people who are law-abiding, working very hard, who have their families and concentrate on that aren't caught up in this net that Donald Trump's authorities are now exercising in places to capture people who are just going to work," Becerra said. "Capturing young men and women who are DACA recipients, who are DREAMers who under the administration are still permitted to go ahead and work and live in this country. And so, we're trying to make sure that there's protection for people who are working very hard. But serious criminals, lock them up and deport them if they don't have documents."

Becerra added that "an executive order is not a law."

"A law must be passed by Congress. California respects all federal laws," he said. "Right now, we respect the federal Constitution. But we're under no obligation to respect an executive order, which violates the U.S. Constitution, as we now have heard another court say about another Trump executive order. The overreach under the Constitution isn't something that the courts will permit."

"California is not violating any federal law. California is simply saying to a president who is overreached beyond what he can under the Constitution that we don't have to respect a dictate from a president who probably hasn't read the Constitution in quite some time."