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Trump meets with like-minded California 'sanctuary' foes

Cathleen Decker and Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump recommended an obstruction of justice investigation into the mayor of Oakland, Calif., for impeding a federal roundup and criticized Mexico for doing "nothing" to help on its border with the United States as he expressed his sentiments about illegal immigration to a like-minded group of Californians on Wednesday.

Trump previously had insisted on a harsh penalty for Mayor Libby Schaaf, but on Wednesday his remarks were aimed directly at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of nearly two dozen opponents of illegal immigration gathered for a public meeting at the White House.

"You talk about obstruction of justice. I would recommend that you look at obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland," Trump said, nodding in Sessions' direction. "To me that's obstruction of justice. Perhaps the Department of Justice can look into that."

Schaaf has been unapologetic about her decision to warn San Francisco Bay Area immigrants about pending arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in February. The result, federal officials said at the time, was to reduce the number of arrests of those suspected of being in the country illegally.

Trump's castigation of Mexico came after he rhetorically asked San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar whether Mexico "helps or it does nothing for us" in quelling the number of immigrants attempting to cross the border.

"Mexico does nothing for us," he said, answering his own question. "Mexico talks but they do nothing for us, especially at the border."

The session arranged by the White House included Californians who have fought against the state's new "sanctuary" law, which limits communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. Included were elected officials, most of them from conservative areas, and law enforcement officials, all outspoken about their allegiance to Trump.

Supporters of the law, including some law enforcement agencies, contend that it aids them by putting at ease residents who otherwise would not trust police and sheriff's deputies. Opponents argue that it forces the release of criminals who pose a danger to other residents -- even if the measure is limited in scope.

Over and over on Wednesday, speakers compared the sanctuary law to the relationship of different federal and local agencies before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- equating the potential threat of illegal immigration to the most damaging terrorist strike on U.S. soil. One speaker, San Juan Capistrano Councilwoman Pam Patterson, suggested that terrorists coming over the border would target the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

"We know that terrorists are coming in," she said, saying the threat equals that of the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl, in what was then the Soviet Union, and Fukushima, Japan.

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