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California leaders to Sessions and Kelly: Legislature 'will use all available means' to defend state policies

Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., center, flanked by California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., center, flanked by California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, left, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California state leaders are asking U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly to identify the state's statutes or ordinances that they perceive as designed to prohibit or obstruct the enforcement of federal immigration law.

In a letter sent to the U.S. officials last week, a lawyer for Covington & Burling, a private firm hired by the state Senate and Assembly, said the Trump administration had repeatedly made unsupported accusations against California. In its "repeated attacks on states," the document stated, the administration appeared to disregard the balance of power between the states and the federal government.

The letter came in response to another letter from Sessions and Kelly, in which they admonished California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Cantil-Sakauye, a former prosecutor who rose through the judicial ranks as an appointee of Republican governors, spoke out against federal immigration agents she said had been “stalking” courthouses to make arrests.

The letter from Sessions and Kelly was “particularly troubling,” state leaders said in their response, when coupled with a January executive order from the Trump administration directing the U.S. attorney general to take action against any entity that prevents the enforcement of federal law.

“The administration’s unnecessary and repeated assaults on the policies of California, its counties, and its cities are deeply unsettling,“ the letter from the Legislature states. “Acting within our constitutional framework, California, its counties and its cities have enacted laws that best protect the rights and interests of their residents.”

Among the policies cited was the California Trust Act, which prevents law enforcement agencies from detaining immigrants longer than necessary for minor crimes, thereby helping federal immigration authorities take them into custody.

“If the Trump administration resorts to attempting to enforce its order against California, the Legislature will use all available means to defend the rights, values and safety of California,” the letter says.

Read the letter here

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