Trump appears ready to go to war with California over immigration — ANALYSIS

Updated March 8, 2018 - 7:59 pm

WASHINGTON — California Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that he believes President Donald Trump “is going to war against the state of California.”

Earlier that day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a lawsuit challenging three California laws that he says inhibit federal immigration enforcement, and he told a law enforcement group, “California, we have a problem.”

The feeling is mutual. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra proudly proclaims he has filed 28 lawsuits against the Trump administration.

As Trump prepares to visit California next week for the first time since the 2016 election, his pokes at California have been mounting. And it looks as if he may be preparing to give the Golden State the same treatment he has reserved for the #fakenews media.

■ During a Feb. 22 meeting with state and local officials to discuss gun violence, Trump publicly toyed with the idea of pulling immigration enforcement officials from California. “Frankly, if I pulled our people from California, you would have a crime nest like you’ve never seen in California,” he said.

■ A week later, the president tweeted, “I have decided that sections of the Wall that California wants built NOW will not be built until the whole Wall is approved.” The tweet appeared to be half threat, half suggestion for human smugglers about the best places to cross the border.

■ On Thursday, Trump hit Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, for announcing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were planning to make arrests last month. Because of Schaaf’s warning, Trump implied, ICE apprehended 150 undocumented immigrants instead of 1,000.

ICE acting director Tom Homan told Fox News that Schaaf was “no better than a gang lookout yelling, ‘Police,’ when a cruiser comes in the neighborhood.”

Chuck DeVore, a former California GOP state lawmaker who is now a vice president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, thinks it’s great politics for Trump to call out California.

In 2012, a Public Policy Polling survey found that California is America’s least favorite state. The rest of America, DeVore opined, sees California as “a crazy outlier that thinks it can virtue signal the rest of the country.”

Trump can’t win California at the ballot box, DeVore added, so “what’s there to lose?” And Trump had every reason to expect California politicians would react as they did — and both Brown and Becerra reacted as if the state’s sanctuary policy is beyond reproach.

Problem: A 2017 Harvard-Harris poll found that 80 percent of Americans believe state and local officials should work with federal immigration officials. California pols, however, act as if it is an affront for any government to distinguish between documented and undocumented immigrants.

Michael Rushford of the pro-enforcement Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento rejected Brown’s claim that Trump declared war on the Golden State. “I think an adult came on the children’s playground yesterday,” Rushford said Thursday, and the kids didn’t like it.

Last year Democratic pollster Paul Maslin thought Trump shrewdly targeted the news media because the dreaded media proved a bigger, better target than Democratic leaders. But Trump’s fingering California, Maslin posited, is problematic.

As much as the rest of America might mock California, Maslin explained, “California is still the Beach Boys and sunshine and Hollywood.” Trump “looks small” going after America’s most populous state.

For his part, Sessions was surgical in his criticism of California law and politicians. He hit the Oakland mayor for endangering the safety of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers tasked with apprehending undocumented immigrants who had been flagged for “public safety” reasons. According to the Department of Justice complaint, between 87 percent and 92 percent of the group’s apprehensions over the last three years involved criminal immigrants.

The complaint faulted California for picking on immigration officers who simply want to enforce the law fairly.

But Sessions also showed California politicians to be complete hypocrites on immigration law. When GOP Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill to make immigration violations a state crime in 2010, President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice challenged the bill all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis that only the federal government can enforce immigration law. California filed a friend-of-the-court brief that supported the Obama position, which the court effectively upheld.

In 2018, Sacramento is all in on states’ rights, and Brown’s stand is the opposite of California’s position on the Arizona law. Sacramento has decided it is free from a Supreme Court ruling, immigration law duly enacted by Congress and its own recent legal arguments.

You could say that on immigration, Jerry Brown is downright Trumpian.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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