Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday singled out California Governor Jerry Brown and urged him not to sign into law a bill that would further restrict local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The legislation was approved by lawmakers over the weekend after the governor helped draft a series of amendments. Mr. Sessions called it a public safety risk and encouraged California and other jurisdictions that have sanctuary laws or policies shielding illegal immigrants to change their ways.
“Such policies undermine the moral authority of law and undermine the safety of the jurisdictions that adopt them,” Mr. Sessions said as he spoke before a group of federal law enforcement officials in Oregon.
The California Values Act, passed Saturday by state lawmakers, is expected to be signed by the governor. The law prohibits local police and sheriffs from asking a person about his or her immigration status or from participating in immigration enforcement efforts. Under the law, local law enforcement agencies, including those that oversee jails, will be able to share information with federal immigration agents and transfer people into their custody if they have previously been convicted of one of some 800 crimes, mostly felonies and misdemeanors that can be charged as felonies. Cooperation will be banned if the person has only minor offense convictions on his or her record.
“The bill risks the safety of good law enforcement officers and the safety of the neighborhoods that need their protection the most,” Mr. Sessions said in his appeal to Mr. Brown. “There are lives and livelihoods at stake.”
The attorney general’s appeal comes after a federal judge temporarily blocked the Justice Department from using another approach to compel jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In a decision out of Chicago, a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department cannot require so-called sanctuary cities to enforce certain immigration policies in order to be considered eligible for federal public safety grants. The judge decided that Mr. Sessions exceeded his authority by adding conditions to the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant that require cities to allow federal agents into their prisons and jails and require cities give immigration agents at least 48 hours notice that they intend to release illegal immigrants from custody.
The Justice Department has declined to comment on whether it intends to appeal the ruling. But Mr. Sessions expressed his frustration over the notion that law enforcement agencies that attempt to stymie federal immigration efforts are still clamoring for federal grants.
“Sanctuary policies endanger us all, and especially the federal immigration officers who are forced to pursue criminal aliens outside of jails and prisons,” Mr. Sessions said. “Yet, rather than reconsider their policies, these sanctuary jurisdictions feign outrage when they lose federal funds as a direct result of actions designed to nullify plain federal law.”
He said the public safety grants should not be considered “an entitlement.”
“We cannot continue giving such federal grants to cities that actively undermine the safety of federal law officers and actively frustrate efforts to reduce crime in their own cities,” he said. “Our duty to protect public safety and protect taxpayer dollars and I plan to fulfill that duty.”