Some of California's mayors, sheriffs and other local leaders headed to Washington D.C. on Wednesday for a roundtable discussion with President Trump as the debate around immigration issues heats up ahead of the midterm elections in November.
At the discussion with Trump, State Assembly Representative Melissa Melendez (R) told the president that the politicians who had gathered together were the 'Republican resistance' in California and that his administration's policies on immigration were far more popular in the Golden State than people thought.
"We know a lot about what it takes to protect our way of life, what it means to protect other people. But we want to make sure that our other citizens are protected," Melendez said, adding that immigration had become a crisis in California.
Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, himself an immigrant, said Gov. Jerry Brown didn't understand what the American Dream means for immigrants coming to the U.S. and that he was aligned with the president's vision.
"I came here to live the American Dream and we did well. Jerry Brown wants to take this American Dream from us. I see myself fighting for these values that make our country great Mr. President. We are aligned with your goals," Abed said.
Leaders like Melendez and Abed were responding to SB 54, legislation Brown signed last year that barred police from asking people about their immigration status, or using local resources to assist federal immigration agents. The legislation is a point of contention between California and Trump's administration as the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to reverse those policies.
Gov. Brown insists that the legislation would make communities safer in the long run. Immigrants fearful of being deported are less likely to come forward about other crimes. But, others disagree, including the mayor of San Jacinto, Crystal Ruiz who said her community has been put at risk because of the limitations forced on her by SB 54.
"We need help Mr. President, we need help protecting the city of San Jacinto, Escondido, the state of California. All of us need help getting this solved," Ruiz said.
"Our children is at risk, my community is my family. You're putting my family at risk. Every day we're getting more and more reports from the police department about how they can't arrest these people. Everything is a misdemeanor," Ruiz added.
President Trump appeared sympathetic to the officials' pleas on Wednesday, saying that they had "bravely resisted California's deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws." Trump claimed the sanctuary laws forced communities to "release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent predators into your communities” and allowing “safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth.”
At one point, Trump referred to immigrants crossing the border illegally as "animals," not people.
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” said Trump. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
Gov. Jerry Brown responded to the president's comments on Twitter writing that Trump was lying "on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA" adding a Pinocchio emoji for good measure.
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