California mayor escalates ‘sanctuary city’ war, and Sessions returns fire
BY BRIAN LONERGAN, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny the obvious: when it comes to immigration policy, there is a de facto cold war being fought between the state of California and Washington, D.C.
Libby Schaaf recently fired the first shot.
Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, committed a serious act of escalation by publicly announcing that agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be conducting operations in the Bay Area in the next 24 hours. While her intent may have been to shield illegal aliens from accountability, even amnesty groups criticized the move for creating a panic among the illegal alien population in the area. Despite the tip-off, ICE went ahead with its operation and made more than 150 arrests. In addition to violating immigration laws, half of those arrested also had prior criminal convictions.
If California vs. D.C. is a cold war, Mayor Schaaf’s actions threaten to make it a hot one. Until now, California’s defiance of federal law has been mostly passive. The Golden State presently has 35 communities that have proudly enacted sanctuary policies to protect illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities. California’s SB 54 went into effect at the start of the year, officially banning local officials from asking about a person’s immigration status. Schaaf’s disclosure represents a much more proactive form of rebellion.
The feds are not amused. Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessionsannounced a lawsuit against the state, charging that SB 54 and two of its other immigration laws violate the Supremacy Clause. Before an audience of law enforcement officers in Sacramento, Sessions unloaded on Schaaf while adding that he recently signed condolence letters the previous day to the families of two law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
“Here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you?” said Sessions. “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement officers to promote a radical, open borders agenda?”
Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan likened Schaaf’s actions to that of a “gang lookout” and said that more than 800 criminal aliens were able to escape the raid as a result of her warning. Homan has long insisted that by prohibiting state and local officials from cooperating, ICE agents are forced to deal with illegal aliens at their residences and other places that increase the danger to both sides. Homan and others have suggested that Schaaf and politicians who act similarly should face obstruction of justice charges.
In damage control mode, Schaaf issued a statement in which she proclaimed, “I know that Oakland is a city of law-abiding immigrants and families who deserve to live free from the constant threat of arrest and deportation.”
That statement explains a lot about the disconnect between open borders politicians and reality. In the upside-down world of California politics, illegal aliens are “law-abiding immigrants,” even though their very existence in the country constitutes a violation of federal law. Along the same line of thinking, those who break our immigration laws deserve to “live free” from any accountability for their actions. This is lunacy and shameless political pandering. Far down the mayor’s list of priorities, apparently, are the real law-abiding citizens of her community who still have more than 800 convicted criminals roaming free among them who should not be there.
While the immigration issue inspires enough passion on its own, California’s extreme position on it is tearing at the very fabric that holds our republic together. The precedent set here is an ominous one. What other federal laws may California decide tomorrow should no longer apply to it? What if numerous other states decide to follow their lead? Instead of immigration laws, what would be the effect if states chose to ignore federal laws on, say, firearm purchases, abortion or same-sex marriage? The result would be nothing short of chaos. The slippery slope here is steep, and California is willfully hurtling down it at breakneck speed.
Schaaf and others like her are doing great damage to the country. They are undermining the rule of law and encouraging illegal activity. Those who act out of such political expediency are putting their constituents, both citizens and illegal aliens, at risk. States should not be in open rebellion to the federal government on matters of national security. Like most wars, this one is not likely to end well for anyone.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.