“No one elected me to be fearful,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told reporters Wednesday afternoon, responding to a fresh round of criticism from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who condemned her this morning for warning the public about last week’s immigration sweeps.
“They elected me to stand up for the people of my community,” Schaaf said. “They elected me to have courage during difficult times — and these are difficult times.”
On Feb. 24, she alerted the immigrant community of impending mass detentions in which ICE officials detained at least 232 of their roughly 1,100 targets throughout Northern California.
Despite White House statements that the U.S. Department of Justice has been instructed to look into a possible obstruction of justice investigation, Schaaf said that as of Wednesday she’s not aware of any formal request for documents related to a criminal investigation into her actions.
Melinda Haag, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California and a litigator with a high level of expertise in this particular kind of case, is consulting with the Oakland city attorney to represent the mayor on a pro-bono basis, according to Schaaf.
She declined to provide details on the substance of their discussions, citing attorney-client privilege.
“The agenda of this administration is petty political vindictiveness,” Schaaf said.
“Clearly they are picking a fight with California,” Schaaf said. “They are picking a fight with diverse sanctuary cities and the people who lead them, but I cannot let that distract me from my job.”
Schaaf said it was not her intention to get caught up in the national debate over sanctuary cities, but said she believes she’s speaking on behalf of the people she represents.
She also expressed confidence that any questions regarding the legality of sanctuary city and state policies will be settled by the courts.
“Federal law is the supreme law of the land,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday morning in Sacramento to a gathering of the California Peace Officers Association, a day after the federal government sued California over state laws that it alleges interfere with immigration enforcement.
“I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg,” Sessions said. “This matter has been settled.”
In addition to referencing one of the most famous battles of the Civil War, Sessions called on the state to “stop treating immigration agents differently from everybody else” for the purpose of frustrating federal immigration enforcement and advancing a pro-immigrant, “open borders” policy that he described as radical and irrational.
During his lengthy speech, Sessions bemoaned the changing demographics of the nation, saying that the percentage of “non-native born” residents is rising, and will soon reach the highest point in history.
He specifically called out Schaaf over her decision to leak news of the impending ICE raids, which critics say may have put ICE agents at risk of violence during the operation.
“How dare you?” Sessions asked. “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda?”
He stated that sanctuary city and state policies in California directly and adversely affect the efforts of federal law enforcement officials to reduce the numbers of immigrants living in the state, a fact not lost on the politicians who enacted and continue to support those policies.
Sessions also made an appeal to local law enforcement officers, apparently soliciting their support regardless of the positions taken by elected leaders like Schaaf.
“We are fighting to make your job safe,” Sessions said. “We intend to win this fight.”
“You can be sure about this: We have your back,” he added.
One reporter asked Schaaf about the seemingly warm reception Sessions enjoyed in Sacramento, pointing out that the crowd at the California Peace Officers Association meeting may have included local law enforcement from Alameda County.
Schaaf responded, saying her focus has been on the Oakland Police Department and Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
“She has been unequivocal in her support of Oakland’s Sanctuary City policies and for the values this community believes in,” Schaaf said of Kirkpatrick.
“Many law enforcement leaders have said that sanctuary policies actually help them fight crime,” Schaaf added. “They know they must have the trust of all members of the community for them to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
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