Trump Mulls Pulling ICE From California02/23 06:04
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- President Donald Trump said Thursday that he may pull the
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency out of California, an idea so
unlikely that some of his staunchest critics dismissed it as an empty taunt
against the state over immigration policies.
Withdrawing ICE, partially or completely, runs counter to Trump's record of
dramatically increasing deportation arrests and pledging to beef up the agency
with an additional 10,000 employees. The administration has been threatening
more --- not less --- immigration enforcement in California in response to a
new state law that sharply limits cooperation with federal authorities.
The president's suggestion, however impractical, was his latest
attention-grabbing statement to pressure so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions,
which the administration claims are a magnet for immigrants who commit crimes.
"Frankly, if I wanted to pull our people from California you would have a
crime nest like you've never seen in California," he said at the White House
during a meeting with state and local officials on school safety and gun
violence. "All I'd have to do is say is, 'ICE and Border Patrol, let California
alone,' you'd be inundated. You would see crime like nobody has ever seen crime
in this country."
"If we ever pulled our ICE out, and we ever said, 'Hey, let California
alone, let them figure it out for themselves,' in two months they'd be begging
for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I'm thinking
about doing it," he continued.
Withdrawing ICE from the state with the largest number of people in the
country illegally, two of its largest detention centers and thousands of
investigators had never been floated or seriously considered.
ICE referred questions to the White House, where spokesman Raj Shah said the
administration wanted California "to actually enforce immigration law rather
than get in the way of it."
The National ICE Council, the union representing detention officers and an
early supporter of Trump's presidential bid, didn't immediately respond to a
request for comment.
Thomas Homan, ICE's acting director, has been saying for months that limits
on cooperation in local jails would lead to a more active street presence of
"California better hold on tight," he told Fox News last month. "They're
about to see a lot more special agents, a lot more deportation officers in the
state of California. If the politicians in California don't want to protect
their communities, then ICE will."
Last Friday, as ICE announced results of an operation in the Los Angeles
area that included more than 200 arrests, Homan declared, "Fewer jail arrests
mean more arrests on the street, and that also requires more resources, which
is why we are forced to send additional resources to those areas to meet
operational needs and officer safety."
Trump's comments were part of a broader swipe against heavily Democratic
California, which gave Hillary Clinton a resounding victory in the 2016
presidential race. He said the state was "doing a lousy management job" and
criticized it for high taxes.
Trump told the group that included Attorney General Jeff Sessions that his
administration has targeted members of the violent MS-13 gang but has been
"getting no help from the state of California." Of MS-13, he said, "They
actually have franchises going to Los Angeles."
Capt. Patricia Sandoval, a Los Angeles police spokeswoman, said MS-13 was
"not one of the most active gangs in LA" and the city's police chief said in a
statement Wednesday that they have "been able to shrink MS-13's sphere of
influence in Los Angeles."
"While it would be foolish to minimize the lethal brutality of street gangs
and in particular MS-13 here in Los Angeles, we have seen a steady decline in
gang membership and gang crime in the city," said Chief Charlie Beck. "We have
made our biggest impact, by arresting and incarcerating individuals who engage
in violent crime and not the general deportation of the residents they
Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County sheriff's
department --- the nation's largest --- said there are "no known MS-13 members
or structures" within their territory, which spreads across nearly 4,000 square
miles (10,360 sq. kilometers).
The Justice Department has threatened to deny millions of dollars in federal
grants to communities that refuse to share information with federal immigration
authorities. Many cities have defied the threats, with lawsuits pending in
Chicago, Philadelphia and California over whether the administration has
overstepped its authority.
The administration stepped up criticism of California after Jan. 1, when a
law took effect to largely prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies
from detaining people at ICE's request unless they have been convicted of any
of hundreds of crimes outlined in a 2013 state law.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democratic, said Trump's comments
"President Trump today renewed his attacks on California with more insults
and threats. The president's obsession with our state is growing more
outrageous by the day," she said.
Some of ICE's strongest critics in California dismissed the idea.
"His erratic comments reflect an obsession with criminalizing immigrants and
shows a deep lack of knowledge of California and immigration laws," said the
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, an advocacy group in Los Angeles.
State Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored the new law,
said, "The president's plan sounds perfectly fine but we know that will never
happen and we'll work with ICE to remove actual dangerous criminals from our
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat and frequent Trump
critic, didn't directly address the president's comments. He issued a brief
statement saying the state works with federal law enforcement daily and its
efforts are geared toward stopping drug dealers, sex traffickers and other
public safety threats.