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Jeff Sessions Scolds California in Immigration Speech: ‘We Have a Problem’

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SACRAMENTO — California and the Trump administration have locked horns from the very first hours of Donald J. Trump’s presidency. But a visit by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the California capital, Sacramento, on Wednesday produced an unfiltered shouting match that was remarkable even for the long-embattled antagonists, and seemed to be a culmination of fraying relations[1] between the conservative administration and the country’s deepest blue state.

Mr. Sessions told a crowd of more than 200 law enforcement officials in a hotel ballroom that he would not stand for the insubordination of California lawmakers and what he called the dangerous obstruction of federal immigration laws.

A 10-minute walk away, in a briefing room of the State Capitol, Gov. Jerry Brown unleashed a tirade against Mr. Sessions and the Trump administration. He said that the administration was “full of liars” and that Mr. Sessions was “basically going to war against the state of California.”

It was highly unusual for an attorney general “to come out here and engage in a political stunt, make wild accusations, many of which are based on outright lies,” Mr. Brown added, “particularly a fellow coming from Alabama talking to us about secession and protecting human and civil rights.”

Warning that California’s liberal politicians were endangering the state’s citizens and obstructing federal law, Mr. Sessions announced on Wednesday that the Trump administration was suing the state[2] over laws devised to make it more difficult for federal immigration agents to operate there.

Mr. Sessions described the state’s so-called sanctuary laws as a radical maneuver that would threaten public safety and throw open the nation’s borders to even more illegal immigration.

Immigration law “is in the books, and its purposes are clear and just. There is no nullification, there is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land,” said Mr. Sessions, one of the administration’s most adamant immigration restrictionists. He accused the state of intentionally using “every power the legislature has to undermine the duly established immigration laws of America.”

The lawsuit, which the Justice Department disclosed on Tuesday in advance of Mr. Sessions’s speech, capped a clash between the Trump administration and California that has lasted more than a year, with each side reaping political profit from the battle. The administration has sought to demonstrate that it will not tolerate noncompliance with federal immigration enforcement; California’s top officials, professed leaders of the anti-Trump resistance, have pushed the state to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement as little as possible.

Even as Mr. Sessions spoke, that opposition was making itself heard. Outside the hotel where Mr. Sessions was speaking, several hundred protesters marched, holding signs saying “Go Home Jeff” and “Crush ICE” and chanting, “What do we want? Sessions out!”

Shortly after Mr. Sessions’s speech, Mr. Brown and the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, both Democrats, appeared together in the Capitol to denounce the lawsuit.

“California is in the business of public safety,” Mr. Becerra said. “We are not in the business of deportation.”

The suit[3], filed on Tuesday evening in Federal District Court in Sacramento, is the first Mr. Sessions’s Justice Department has filed against a local or state government over its immigration policies.

Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and the California attorney general, Xavier Becerra, at a news conference after Mr. Sessions’s speech in Sacramento.CreditJim Wilson/The New York Times

It targets three state laws passed in recent months: one that limits state and local agencies’ ability to share information about criminals or suspects with federal immigration officers, unless they have been convicted of serious crimes; a second that prohibits local businesses from allowing ICE to examine employee records without a court order or a subpoena; and a third that gave California officials more oversight over the state’s immigration detention centers.

Mr. Brown and Mr. Becerra defended the legislation as constitutional on Wednesday, saying that the laws prevented neither ICE agents from working in local jails and prisons nor employers from cooperating with ICE. The employee records law, Mr. Becerra said, simply ensures that workers and employers are guaranteed “their rights and their privacy and that those are being respected.”

Asked whether the law would, in effect, require warning undocumented workers to flee ahead of an ICE visit, Mr. Brown compared the provision to the practice of notifying criminal suspects that they have a right to a lawyer. “We are just following the law, and the law allows people to be advised of their rights,” Mr. Brown said. “Anything else smacks of a more totalitarian approach to things.”

Mr. Sessions had another comparison in mind.

What if, he asked, a state enacted legislation hampering the work of employees from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency? “Would you pass a law to do that?” he said.

Beyond the specifics of the laws, Mr. Sessions railed about several instances in which he said state officials had frustrated the work of federal law enforcement. He heartily ripped into Libby Schaaf, the Democratic mayor of Oakland, for issuing a warning[4] last week that ICE planned to arrest immigrants across Northern California, an alert that infuriated agency officials who said her tip-off had allowed hundreds of their targets to slip away.

Ms. Schaaf’s actions “support those who flout the law and boldly invalidates illegality,” Mr. Sessions said, calling her warning “an embarrassment to the proud state of California.”

“So here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf,” he said. “How dare you, how dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda?”

Ms. Schaaf said last week that she had not publicized any information that endangered ICE officers. She said she issued the warning because “I know that Oakland is a city of law-abiding immigrants and families who deserve to live free from the constant threat of arrest and deportation.”

Inside the hotel ballroom on Wednesday, Mr. Sessions faced a polite, if somewhat divided, audience.

Some police chiefs and sheriffs in liberal-leaning areas have argued that their agencies must distance themselves from ICE to avoid scaring off immigrant residents who may be more reluctant to serve as witnesses or come forward to report crimes. But there are many other officials across the country who say they would prefer to work with ICE if the legal issues surrounding such cooperation are clarified, and some who are eager to help the federal government outright with immigration enforcement.

Those tensions were palpable at Mr. Sessions’s speech, which was hosted by the California Peace Officers Association, a law enforcement advocacy group. The crowd responded to the speech with brief applause; about 10 of the more than 200 officers in the room stood to clap.

“I’m stuck in the middle,” said Deputy Chief Derek Williams of the police department in Ontario, a midsize city east of Los Angeles with a large Hispanic population. “It’s extremely bifurcated now.”

While the new state laws do not affect his work on a day-to-day basis, he said, the sharp increase in ICE activity has fostered “a lack of trust with law enforcement” among immigrant residents. “It’s a difficult time for us,” he said.

Among those who endorsed Mr. Sessions’s message was Paul R. Curry, a lobbyist for the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, which represents supervisors in the state prison system. He said California police chiefs were often caught between ICE’s requests and the orders of their mayors, who might embrace sanctuary policies.

“Every police officer is sworn to uphold the law not only of the state but the nation,” Mr. Curry said. “The progressive agenda is running afoul of the force of our laws in the country.”

Thomas Fuller reported from Sacramento and Vivian Yee from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Sessions Scolds California in Immigration Speech: ‘We Have a Problem’. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe[5][6][7]

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References

  1. ^ fraying relations (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ was suing the state (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ The suit (www.politico.com)
  4. ^ for issuing a warning (www.nytimes.com)
  5. ^ Order Reprints (www.nytreprints.com)
  6. ^ Today’s Paper (www.nytimes.com)
  7. ^ Subscribe (www.nytimes.com)

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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