Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson was among a handful of California leaders who met with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to show their support for his administration's stance against sanctuary cities.
Christianson, who sat next to Trump, was joined at the meeting by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other California officials.
The officials were responding to Senate Bill 54 that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that bars police from asking people about their immigration status or helping federal agents with immigration enforcement. Jail officials can transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities if they have been convicted of one of about 800 crimes, mostly felonies, but not for minor offenses.
Brown insists the legislation, which took effect Jan. 1, doesn't prevent federal immigration officials from doing their jobs. But the Trump administration has sued to reverse it, calling the policies unconstitutional and dangerous. Some counties, including San Diego and Orange, have voted to support the lawsuit or passed their own anti-sanctuary resolutions.
In a video released from by the White House, Christianson expressed his frustration with the sanctuary city legislation.
"This legislation, SB 54, ties the hands of law enforcement officers throughout California," Christianson said. "This legislation prevents the sheriffs from communicating with our federal law enforcement partners in a way that protects our community.
"What we really need is everybody working together to promote a healthy and safer community and not interfering with our ability to hold people accountable who victimize and exploit others," Christianson continued.
During Wednesday's 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."
At the meeting, Christianson touted the partnership the sheriff's department has had with I.C.E.
"We have an outstanding relationship with I.C.E. We work very closely with them," Christianson said. "Since 9/11, sir, we have an unbelievable partnership with our federal law enforcement agencies. And there shouldn't be anybody interfering with a sheriff's ability, a chief's ability, or anybody in this room at this table today from defending people against those who exploit and victimize them. There should be no interference in our ability to protect our communities, to protect our national security.
"I'm privileged to live in the Central Valley, where agriculture is the number-one economic industry - multi-billion-dollar industry," Christianson continued. "We feed the world. I.C.E. is not out sweeping through those agricultural communities. We're looking for the people, the criminals. Not the people who are working, seeking a better life in America, sent their kids to school, are out every day in agriculture, whether that's nuts, fruits, poultry, dairy, you name it. That's not what we're doing, sir. We're focused on those individuals who victimize and exploit the weak and defenseless. And we should be able to do that without interference."