President Trump on Wednesday praised local California leaders for standing up to “deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws” and hailed what he called a “rebellion” against the state’s immigration policies.
“Each of you has bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws,” Trump said at the White House roundtable of local officials on the issue. “You’ve gone through a lot, too, although it’s become quite popular what you do.”
The roundtable featured a number of California Republican lawmakers and law enforcement officials who have pushed back against the state’s sanctuary laws which limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Among those there with Trump were Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
"They are breaking down society by breaking down the rule of law," McCarthy said.
A Republican official told Politico ahead of the meeting that it was “a show of force.”
In March, Sessions announced a lawsuit against the state’s “sanctuary” policies, which limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
A number of conservative areas in the state have objected and joined that lawsuit, looking to exempt themselves from the state law. A number of the officials behind such a push were among those invited to the White House.
“The state of California's attempts to nullify federal law have sparked a rebellion by patriotic citizens who want their families protected and their borders secured,” Trump said. “They want border security and they want protection.”
According to Fox 11, jurisdictions that have either filed amicus briefs supporting the federal lawsuit or who have joined it include Newport Beach, Orange, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Fountain Valley, San Juan Capistrano and Yorba Linda.
I think the resistance that started in the Democratic Party, this is your Republican resistance, right here,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez told Trump.
“We need help Mr. President,” San Jacinto Mayor Crystal Ruiz said. “We need help protecting the city of San Jacinto, Escondido, the state of California.”
“Don’t give up the fight,” Trump urged Ruiz.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown was unimpressed by the roundtable and accused Trump of lying about what is going on in California.
"Trump is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of California," Brown said in a statement. "Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed."
A flashpoint between California and the Trump administration came in February when Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf alerted locals to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in northern California. Authorities said hundreds of criminal illegal immigrants escaped capture as a result.
Trump made reference to Schaaf on Wednesday and urged Sessions to consider an obstruction of justice charge for her. The Department of Justice had said in the wake of the raid that it was investigating.
“You talk about an obstruction of justice, I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland California, Jeff,” he said.
Trump has been a frequent critic of both Schaaf and Brown, and in March said he stood in “solidarity” with those pushing back against sanctuary policies in places such as Orange County.
“My Administration stands in solidarity with the brave citizens in Orange County defending their rights against California's illegal and unconstitutional Sanctuary policies,” he tweeted.
“California's Sanctuary laws...release known dangerous criminals into communities across the State,” he added. “All citizens have the right to be protected by Federal law and strong borders.”