President Trump blasted California's sanctuary state law for providing safe haven for illegal immigrant drug dealers, gang members, and "some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth," pledging to redouble his administration's efforts to deport illegal immigrants who commit crimes.
Trump on Wednesday met with more than a dozen conservative California officials and sheriffs who oppose the state's Democrat-led efforts to block local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
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The president thanked the "courageous mayors and sheriffs and local leaders" from across the state who, he said, "bravely resisted California's deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws."
"The state of California's attempt to nullify federal law has sparked a rebellion by patriotic citizens who want their families protected and their borders secured," he told the group of California officials gathered at the White House for the meeting.
Early on in the meeting, he also suggested to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was sitting nearby, that he "look into obstruction of justice" charges against Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Schaaf in February warned her constituents of an impending federal raid targeting 1,100 illegal immigrants that resulted in the arrests of roughly 200.
"I mean, you talk about obstruction of justice, I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland, California, Jeff," Trump said to Sessions who didn't respond.
"She informed them and they all fled—or most of them fled—and that whole operation took a long time to put together," Trump said. "It's a big deal out there, and a lot of people are angry about what happened. There was a lot of hard work and danger involved. And that was a terrible thing."
Along with Sessions, several federal officials were on to hand to participate in the roundtable discussion, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; the acting head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan; and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.).
Homan has repeatedly slammed Schaaf for putting ICE officers in danger on the day of the raid because the illegal immigrants they were seeking were tipped off to their raids and prepared to either flee or fight their efforts.
He also said three of the people ICE could not locate the day of the raid have since reoffended, with one of them arrested for robbery and multiple weapons violations.
Despite California officials' attempts to thwart federal immigration authorities' efforts, Trump said his administration remains committed to deporting violent criminals, such as MS-13 gang members, by the "thousands."
Since the sanctuary state law, officially known as California Values Act, went into effect early this year, he said the Los Angeles Police Department arrested an illegal immigrant from Mexico on drug possession charges but did not honor the ICE detainer and set him free.
"Just a few weeks later, he was arrested again, this time for murder," Trump said.
At one point, when describing a separate rape and murder of a California woman by an illegal immigrant he said was previously arrested six times, Trump said illegal immigrant gang members who commit heinous crimes aren't "people, they're animals."
Kevin de Leon, the author of the sanctuary state law who is challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) from the left, fired back.
"Our hardworking families aren't ‘animals,' Mr. President," he said in a tweet. "The families you're tearing apart are people, just like you. No matter how hard you try, you can't strip away their humanity."
De Leon accused Trump of hosting the California officials, most of whom are Republicans, because "he's terrified Republicans will lose control of Congress."
"But CA—the largest state in the union and the strongest driver of our nation's economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well," he tweeted. "We will not allow this one electoral aberration (I'm talking abut you @realDonaldTrump) to reverse decades of California's progress. Not at the height of our historic diversity, economic output, and sense of global responsibility."
Local California lawmakers and officials on hand for the meeting said their constituents support their efforts to fight the sanctuary state law because they value the safety of their communities.
"My constituents—and those are Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike—they don't want to see another Kate Steinle—that's what I hear every single week," said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez.
Sam Abed, the mayor of Escondido, said before the sanctuary law passed, city officials regularly worked with ICE to see 2,700 illegal immigrant criminals deported, which he attributed to lowering crime rates back to 1980s levels.
Residents in heavily immigrant communities in his city report more crime so providing safe harbor to illegal immigrant criminals is hurting the immigrant communities the most, he said.
"This narrative that sanctuary cities will allow more immigrant people to report more crime is fake news, Mr. President," he said.