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California leaders rebuke Sessions as 'going to war' over state immigration policy

Jazmine Ulloa and Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"Attorney General Sessions is the top law enforcement officer in the United States of America," Gallucci said. "It would be foolish for us not to listen to where we may be headed and to understand what all the issues are. That is what this forum is for."

Though the state government's foray into immigration issues has drawn criticism outside California's borders in recent months, it has broad support within the state. A January poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found 58 percent of likely voters wanted state and local immigration action. Among all adults, support rose to 65 percent of those surveyed.

Law enforcement officials have been divided on the issue. The most contested of the statues -- the so-called "sanctuary state" law -- limits state and local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents, unless they had violent or serious criminal convictions.

For many officers across the state, that won't change much of their daily work. Some police and sheriff's agencies already have developed similar restrictions on working with immigration agents, either through their own policies or under local "sanctuary city" rules.

The California Police Chiefs Association moved its official position from opposed to neutral after final changes to the bill, but the California State Sheriffs Association remained opposed.

Outside Sessions' speech Wednesday, a few hundred gathered to protest. Right before the speech began, protesters spilled out onto a major street, blocking traffic, and then marched around the exterior of the building.

Maria Isabel Serrano, 46, from Imperial County, said the attorney general should focus on violent crimes, not immigration.

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"This is the only place where we have a sanctuary," Serrano said in Spanish. "This lawsuit is uncalled for."

(Times staff writers John Myers and Seema Mehta contributed to this report.)

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