CATHEDRAL CITY, Calif. - The Trump Administration fired a legal shot at California on Wednesday in the battle over immigration when the Justice Department announced it had filed a lawsuit to block state laws that protect undocumented immigrants.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement in Sacramento while addressing roughly 200 members of the California Peace Officers' Association.
The suit challenges three state laws that restrict when and how police can cooperate with federal immigration officers. Sessions is suing in a challenge to three state laws that bar police from asking people about their citizenship status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.
"California is using every power it has—and some it doesn't—to frustrate federal law enforcement. So you can be sure I'm going to use every power I have to stop that," he said.
People from both sides of the debated greeted him at the Capitol. More than a dozen reportedly gave him a standing ovation. Some people int he Coachella Valley also supported the move
"I am totally for it because I do not think we should be paying for illegal aliens that are coming to this community and are taking away and getting government benefits," said one Cathedral City resident.
However, immigration advocates are promising a fight. Governor Jerry Brown denounced Sessions for his trip to the state's Capitol.
"For the chief law enforcement of the united states to come out here and engage in a political stunt, make wild accusations, many of them based on outright lies, that's unusual," he said.
A representative of the TODEC Legal Center in Coachella, which works to empower immigrant communities, applauded the governor's efforts.
"We are very happy to have the great leadership in California that is standing up for its community. for the community that's more vulnerable- which is our undocumented community," said Luz Gallegos.
The Coachella Valley is home to several sanctuary cities. Both Sessions and President Donald Trump have threatened to pull funding for sanctuary cities in the past. Cathedral City residents voted to officially become one in May.
KESQ News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 reached out Mayor Stan Henry for comment Wednesday morning. His public information officer, Chris Parman, replied via a text message that read "The city is not a party to the lawsuit between the Justice Department and the state and there is no need for Cathedral City to speak on the matter."
Steven Hernandez, the mayor of Coachella, another sanctuary city was also unavailable to speak, but Valley residents were more willing.
"I understand the government does their due diligence for the country, but in a country that was built by immigrants- it's a double standard," said Joe Cole, who immigrated from Mexico when he was seven years old.
"I think they should allow them in as long as they get their citizenship and pay their taxes," said Donald Hemstreet.
California may not be the only target. The justice department is looking at other states' immigration policies and could fire off more lawsuits in the future.