Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted what he called California’s “extreme” and “not reasonable” position that seeks to thwart federal immigration policies, in an interview with Fox News Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Sessions had announced a federal lawsuit against California and attacked its elected officials as “radical extremists” in a speech in Sacramento.
The Justice Department is suing California over its so-called “sanctuary” policies that prohibit some cooperation with federal immigration enforcement.
“Federal law determines immigration policy,” Sessions told Fox. “The state of California is not entitled to block that activity. Somebody needs to stand up and say, ‘No, you’ve gone too far. You cannot do this.’ This is not reasonable. It is radical, really.”
He said that California had forced the Justice Department to act.
Sessions said that the state’s stance could be interpreted as “that we should not have immigration laws, that we should have open borders because whenever anyone is apprehended, it seems that we have persons who want to block their removal from the country no matter what the circumstances.”
“We can’t allow this to happen.” he said.
“California has placed us in the position and the Governor, by signing the bill, has placed us in the position where we cannot accept this and we have got to challenge it.”
Sessions also defended recent US Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations in Northern California, which had arrested 232 people in a span of four days. ICE said of those arrests, 180 had criminal convictions, had been issued final orders of removal or had previously been deported, but returned illegally.
Sessions also directed his criticism at Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf, who had announced publicly that federal authorities would be conducting immigration crackdowns in her area. Schaaf, California state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Gov. Jerry Brown have all pushed back on Sessions remarks.
“This attorney general is, maybe he’s trying to keep his job because the president’s not too happy with him,” Brown said Wednesday in response to Session’s announcement.
Despite a rocky relationship with President Donald Trump, Sessions had nothing but praise for him.
“I think President Trump moves the ball,” he told Fox News. “He can get things done that I am not sure any other person in American could get done. He is bold, he’s not worried about what people say. I believe in the policies that he is advancing.”
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.