California attorney general: 'We're ready' to fight Trump administration over sanctuary cities

"We're in the business of public safety," not deportation, Xavier Becerra said.

ByMichael Edison Hayden
April 23, 2017, 11:52 AM

— -- California's top law enforcement officer said his state is "ready" to confront the Trump administration over its funding threats against so-called sanctuary cities.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded in an interview on ABC's "This Week" Sunday to warnings by the Trump administration that it could cut funding to sanctuary cities, which are places that limit how much local police forces can cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Becerra contrasted the role of the federal government with California’s law enforcement agencies.

"We fully respect that they have the responsibility to enforce immigration law," he told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "We are in the business of public safety. We're not in the business of deportation."

He said California abides by federal laws on immigration and asserted that the U.S. government cannot order state or local jurisdictions to change their approach to public safety.

"We're going to continue to abide by federal law and the U.S. Constitution,” Becerra said. “And we're hoping the federal government will also abide by the U.S. Constitution, which gives my state the right to decide how to do public safety.”

The Trump administration on Friday sent letters to officials in California and major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, warning them that they may lose coveted law-enforcement grant money unless they document cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Stephanopoulos asked Becerra about Sessions' remarks in an earlier "This Week" interview Sunday. "You heard him. He's saying, especially in California, you're not fulfilling that duty" of cooperation, Stephanopoulos said.

"We can prove anywhere we need to ... that we are protecting our people," Becerra responded. "And we're doing it by keeping families together, not separating them."Stephanopoulos also asked the attorney general about the apparently confusing messages from the Trump administration on the status of DREAMers, unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who are currently protected from deportation by orders signed by former President Obama.

Trump on Friday said DREAMers should "rest easy," but Sessions said on "This Week" that they, like all unauthorized immigrants, are "subject to being deported."

"It's not clear what we can trust, what statement we can believe in" regarding DREAMers, Becerra said. "And that causes a great deal of not just anxiety, but confusion, not just for those immigrant families, but for our law enforcement personnel."

"I've been trying to reach out to Attorney General Sessions and to [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary Kelly, to get a sense of really what is their policy when it comes to the DREAMers," the California attorney general said. "We'd like to know, is it in fact a policy of this president and this administration and this Attorney General Sessions to abide by the ... policy that allows DREAMers to continue to go to school, to go to work, to believe that they're not going to be out there and be apprehended by [immigration] agents simply because they look like people who weren't born here?"

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