News & Politics

California-Washington Feud Over Immigration Intensifies

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, March 2, 2017. Sessions said he will recuse himself from a federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 White House election. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The feud between the state of California and the federal government over immigration enforcement is growing more intense as the war of words and promises of non-cooperation continue.

It isn’t just that California is refusing to enforce federal immigration laws. State leaders are now trying to prevent federal agents from doing their jobs. The chief judge of the California state Supreme Court recently accused ICE agents of “stalking” illegal aliens in so-called “protected places” like courthouses.  This has elicited a harsh response from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

New York Times:

Two weeks ago, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the chief justice of California, wrote a letter to Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and John F. Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, after several judges and lawyers in California and elsewhere began complaining about seeing ICE agents in and around courthouses.

Ms. Cantil-Sakauye, a Republican, wrote that she worried that the practice would erode the public’s trust of the court system and stop crime victims from seeking justice.

“I am deeply concerned about reports from some of our trial courts that immigration agents appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests,” she wrote.

In a sharply worded response released Friday, Mr. Sessions and Mr. Kelly suggested that Justice Cantil-Sakauye should direct her concerns to Gov. Jerry Brown and to law enforcement officials who refuse federal requests to detain unauthorized immigrants so that they can be picked up for deportation proceedings. A number of California municipalities are “sanctuary cities” that limit police cooperation with the immigration authorities.

“Such policies threaten public safety, rather than enhance it,” Mr. Sessions and Mr. Kelly wrote in their joint letter. They added that when local jails do not turn over undocumented immigrants, federal agents then must look for them when they are out in public, presenting a greater danger to officers because the immigrant may be armed or attempt to escape. By arresting immigrants in court, where they are typically screened for weapons, they said, “the safety risks for the arresting officers and persons being arrested are substantially decreased.”

Mr. Sessions and Mr. Kelly were particularly critical of M. Cantil-Sakauye’s use of the term “stalking.”

“As the chief judicial officer of the state of California, your characterization of federal law enforcement officers is particularly troubling,” they wrote. “As you are aware, stalking has a specific legal meaning in American law, which describes criminal activity involving repetitive following or harassment of the victim with the intent to produce fear or harm.”

It’s true that California law enforcement authorities do not have to hold or turn over illegal aliens to federal agents. But if they don’t want to help address the illegal alien problem by assisting the feds, what is their rationale for trying to shame federal immigration enforcement personnel from doing their jobs?

The whole point of President Trump’s “surge” in hiring ICE agents is to beef up enforcement at the border and have them fan out in the interior of the U.S. to do the job that sanctuary cities won’t do. Cantil-Sakauye is making noises that would lead one to believe that law enforcement in California should not only refuse to cooperate with agents, but seek to interfere with their legitimate statutory authority to enforce immigration laws.  Thus will “stalking” be prevented.

I think that ICE agents should have zero tolerance for any interference from state authorities. If they seek to impede the lawful execution of the law, they should be arrested. And that includes the chief judge of the Supreme Court.