WASHINGTON (CBSLA/AP) – During a meeting Wednesday with California leaders regarding immigration issues and the state’s controversial sanctuary state laws, President Donald Trump used the term “animals” in response to a comment about gang members who cross the border illegally.
The remarks came in Cabinet Room of the White House while Mr. Trump was meeting with California Republican officials, including Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel, several local mayors and Deputy Orange County Sheriff Ray Grangoff.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them,” Trump said during the immigration round table after a sheriff commented about gangs. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D- New York), responded on Twitter to the president, saying, “When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren’t ‘animals,’ and these people aren’t either.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan were also at the meeting.
During the session, Trump thanked the officials, saying they had “bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws.” He claimed those laws are forcing “the release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent predators into your communities” and providing “safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth.”
“For those politicians, all Republican, who attended this meeting in the White House, I feel like they have betrayed our values, they have betrayed our home state,” California Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) told CBS2 Wednesday.
De Leon wrote the sanctuary state bill.
Gov. Jerry Brown responded on Twitter, writing that Trump “is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA.”
The Democratic governor added: “Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed.”
Last October, Brown signed Senate Bill 54, the sanctuary state legislation that extends protections for immigrants living in the United States illegally.
The bill took effect Jan. 1. Under it, police are barred from asking people about their immigration status or participating in immigration enforcement activities. Jail officials are only allowed to transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities if they have been convicted of certain crimes.
Since March, 10 Orange County cities have come out in opposition to the sanctuary state laws. They include Westminster, Orange, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Fountain Valley, San Juan Capistrano and Yorba Linda.
Last week, Santa Clarita became the first city in Los Angeles County to oppose it when its council voted unanimously to file a brief to opt out of the sanctuary state law.
Last month, the council for the Riverside County city of Beaumont also approved a resolution that declares Senate Bill 54 incompatible with federal law and, therefore, illegitimate.
The cities have either opted out of the laws or are joining the federal government in suing California. Several cities are attaching amicus briefs to the federal government’s lawsuit.
Orange County supervisors have also voted to join the lawsuit.
In March, the O.C. Sheriff’s Department, whose leadership opposes the sanctuary laws, announced it was now providing public information on when inmates are released from custody. An existing “Who’s in Jail” online database includes the date and time of inmates’ release, a move agency officials say will enhance communication with its law enforcement partners. The release date information applies to all inmates, not just those who are suspected of being in the country illegally. But OCSD made it clear the goal is to assist ICE agents.
The Justice Department in early March sued the state of California, Gov. Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alleging California’s three sanctuary state laws (Senate Bill 54, Assembly Bill 450, Assembly Bill 103) interfere with federal immigration activities and “intentionally obstruct and discriminate” against the enforcement of federal immigration law.
Republicans see backlash to the law as a potentially galvanizing issue during the midterm elections, especially with Trump’s anti-immigrant base. And Trump has held numerous events in recent months during which he’s drawn attention to California’s policies.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)