California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, during a Tuesday visit to Washington, blamed “low-life politicians” for the backlash over his state's “sanctuary” laws and sparred with President Trump over a push to send National Guard troops to the southern border.
He spoke at The National Press Club shortly after officials with the Southern California city of Los Alamitos voted to exempt the city from the state's sanctuary policy on the grounds it is unconstitutional.
But Brown defended the state law, suggesting Republicans are exploiting it for political reasons.
“The Republican Party has this little, narrow group of … people that think that somehow they’re going to get elected” on the issue, Brown said of the recently enacted state law that helps protect illegal immigrants from deportation.
The Trump administration in early March also announced a lawsuit challenging the law. And in the ensuing weeks, Orange County and at least nine cities within its boundaries -- including Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach -- have joined the fight.
Elected officials in San Diego County also will meet Tuesday to consider joining the Trump suit.
“It’s an inflammatory football that very low-life politicians are trying to exploit,” Brown said of the conservative-led backlash.
He predicted a “wave election” in the fall will give the country "new opportunities to take a different path" and said, "If Trump wants to round them up like some totalitarian, say that, say, ‘Ship them out.’”
Minutes before Brown spoke, Trump blasted the governor for agreeing to send hundreds of National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border but limiting the scope of their duties.
“Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border,” Trump tweeted. “He cannot come to terms for the National Guard to patrol and protect the Border. The high crime rate will only get higher. Much wanted Wall in San Diego already started!”
Brown, when informed by a reporter about the tweet, attempted to downplay the disagreement between the state and the National Guard.
“I think we’re already coming to terms,” said Brown, who added he wants the roughly 200 to 400 Guardsmen he’s sending to focus on human trafficking and gun smuggling, amid Trump and others' concerns about illegal border crossings. “The guards are chomping at the bit to get there. … I am concerned about our borders.”
The 80-year-old governor, who leaves office in January, also argued that critics of the state’s sanctuary policy have exaggerated or at least misinterpreted it, particularly the issue of local officials not being able to inform federal agents when an illegal immigrant is being released from jail.
“There’s nothing that stops local officials from notifying U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that a jailed person is going to be released,” Brown said, who also said the releases are a matter of public record.
He also dismissed as “outlandish” and “absolutely false” concerns that the law favors illegal immigrants over citizens, in reponse to a question from Fox News' Griff Jenkins.
“I’m dealing with a humanitarian crisis,” said Brown, who argued the law is intended to protect the hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in California but have lived and worked in the state without problems.
Still, he argued that “no law is perfect and always subject to change.”
Brown also said he supports comprehensive immigration reform and cast some of the blame on Congress for failing to resolve the issue of what to do with those brought to the United States illegally by their parents.