World Bulletin / News Desk
At issue are three state laws that comprise California's declaration of itself as a sanctuary state, or a jurisdiction that will not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. California is the largest such territory to pursue the policy, but it is not alone.
Major cities including Seattle and New York have similarly refused to cooperate with immigration enforcement, sparking a deepening rift with the federal government as President Donald Trump seeks to implement a widespread immigration crackdown.
Addressing law enforcement officers in the California state capital, Sessions said the administration is "simply asking California and other sanctuary jurisdictions to stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement.
"We are going to fight these irrational, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you and our federal officers," he told assembled officers. "We intend to win this fight."
Sessions offered a biting rebuke of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf who publicly warned of upcoming immigration roundups, saying she threatened the lives of immigration officers by doing so.
"How dare you. How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement just to promote a radical open borders agenda," he said. "But in California we have bigger problems also. It's more than just one mayor."
Schaff has stood by her announcement, denying allegations she obstructed justice while framing the decision as "an opportunity to ensure people are aware of their rights".
The Justice Department suit alleges that the three California laws "have the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for federal immigration officers to carry out their responsibilities".
Among other things, the laws prohibit the transfer of individuals in state or local custody from transferring to federal officials without a warrant, and similarly makes it illegal for employers to hand over employee information to immigration officials without a court order in an effort to stymy workplace raids.
California officials have denied the laws in any way infringe upon federal efforts, insisting they are complying with the law, notably the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which separates state and federal powers.
Responding to the suit, California Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who are named in the suit as defendants, were adamant California's laws are in compliance with federal law, and that the administration's suit will be met with a full response in a court of law.
Brown said Sessions "has no regard for the truth", calling the suit "an act of war" on California and saying the lawsuit "will last a lot longer than the Trump administration.
"Let's face it: the Trump White House is under siege," he said. "The attorney general has found it hard just to be a normal attorney general. He's been caught up in the whirlwind of Trumpism."
Amid the back and forth between the Trump administration and California, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed recipients of former President Barack Obama’s immigration protections are not being targeted for deportation after the program they benefited from expired Monday.
Hundreds of thousands of people brought illegally to the country as children have benefitted from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. But Trump sought to end it last year, giving lawmakers until March 5 to develop a replacement.
Homeland Security spokesman Tyler Houlton said in a statement the department is continuing to process two-year DACA renewals after a district court in California barred the administration from ending the program.
"With regard to enforcement actions against current and expiring DACA recipients, DHS has repeatedly stated that, absent additional negative factors, DACA recipients are not a priority or target group for arrest or removal," he said.
Houlton's statement did note Trump's stated rationale for ending the program, saying "the DACA protections currently in place due to a court injunction are the result of a likely unconstitutional exercise of executive authority".