Photo: AP (Marcio Jose Sanche)

The Trump administration made its most aggressive assault on cities that shield undocumented immigrants on Tuesday night by filing the paperwork to sue the state of California over its sanctuary city laws.

The Justice Department filed the lawsuit against the state and its top officials in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to announce the suit in an event with law enforcement groups later today.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair, and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Sessions will tell officers at the California Peace Officers Association, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by CNN. “We are fighting to make your jobs safer and to help you reduce crime in America. And I believe that we are going to win.”

At issue are three California laws, according to BuzzFeed, which the Justice Department claims violate the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, a measure that essentially states that where federal and state law conflict, federal law prevails:

The lawsuit will challenge sections of three California laws: AB 450, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, which restricts employers from cooperating with federal immigration officials; SB 54, also signed in October, which bars state and local law enforcement from alerting federal agents when an undocumented immigrants will be released from state custody and places restrictions on detainee transfers; and AB 103, signed in June, which requires the state’s attorney general to review state, local, and private detention facilities that house detainees on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the circumstances of their detention.


California Governor Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, both of whom are named as defendants in the lawsuit, shot back at the Justice Department Tuesday night.

Brown tweeted: “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”

In a conference call with reporters, Becerra said, “We have seen this B-rated movie before.”


“They better have good evidence, because we are going to fight back,” he said. “We are doing nothing to intrude on the work of the federal government to do immigration enforcement.”

While naming the state and its top officials—who’ve openly defied the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities—isn’t much of a surprise, the administration’s ratcheting up the pressure on the state to comply comes as a declaration of war.