Sessions to California: 'There is no secession'

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAttorneys want Supreme Court to determine legality of Whitaker as acting AG Hillicon Valley: Russian-linked hackers may have impersonated US officials | Trump signs DHS cyber bill | Prosecutors inadvertently reveal charges against Assange | Accenture workers protest border enforcement work | App mines crypto for bail bonds McCarthy, other Republicans back Ratcliffe to be next attorney general MORE issued a warning to California the same day he announced a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the state's immigration policies.

“I understand that we have a wide variety of political opinions out there on immigration. But the law is in the books and its purposes are clear and just,” Sessions said during a speech to the California Peace Officers’ Association in Sacramento on Wednesday.

“There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land. I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled,” he continued. 

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DOJ's lawsuit against California aims to block three so-called sanctuary laws the state's legislature passed last year.

In the 18-page complaint, filed late Tuesday, DOJ asks the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to block the three laws, which it argues are designed to intentionally obstruct and discriminate against the enforcement of federal immigration law.

The laws at the center of dispute prohibit private employers from voluntarily cooperating with federal immigration officials; prevent state and local law enforcement officials from giving federal immigration officials information about the release date of removable immigrants in their custody; and create an inspection and review scheme that requires the California Attorney General to investigate the immigration enforcement efforts of federal agents.

“The provisions of state law at issue have the purpose and effect of making it more difficult for federal immigration officers to carry out their responsibilities in California,” the administration says in the complaint.

The DOJ said the laws are invalid because they violate the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which establishes that federal law generally takes precedence over state laws.

“The Supremacy Clause does not allow California to obstruct the United States’ ability to enforce laws that Congress has enacted or to take actions entrusted to it by the Constitution,” DOJ argued.

On Wednesday, Sessions argued that California's laws are harmful to the state’s residents, and prevent law enforcement officers from doing their jobs.

He singled out Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who last month warned residents of an impending Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid. Schaaf defended her decision even after ICE said it was unable to locate more than 800 people as part of its sweep of the city.

"Here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf: How dare you," Sessions said Wednesday. "How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda."

He said the Justice Department isn’t asking the state to enforce federal immigration law, but rather is asking California and local jurisdictions to “stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement.”

“California is using every power it has, and some it doesn’t, to frustrate federal law enforcement,” Sessions said. “So you can be sure I’m going to use every power I have to stop them.”

California lawmakers have pushed back against the lawsuit since it was first reported and vowed to continue upholding the state's policies.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called the lawsuit a “political stunt.” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisElection Countdown: Abrams ends fight in Georgia governor's race | Latest on Florida recount | Booker, Harris head to campaign in Mississippi Senate runoff | Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority Booker to campaign for Dem in Mississippi Senate runoff On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report MORE (D-Calif.) said the Trump administration was attempting to “bully California.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told The Sacaramento Bee that the state and city would be undeterred by Sessions’s visit.

“We are a proud safe haven, a proud sanctuary city, a proud sanctuary state, and we stand with our neighbors,” he said.

Lydia Wheeler contributed.

Updated at 12:23 p.m.