Jerry Brown Deflects Conflict With Feds Under Trump

California governor puts onus on Congress to address immigration

California Gov. Jerry Brown used an appearance at the National Press Club to address some of his state's outstanding issues with the federal government. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)

California Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he expects to reach a deal with the White House to deploy up to 400 National Guard troops on his state's border with Mexico, even as President Donald Trump hurled criticisms at the Democrat on Twitter.

Brown, who has frequently clashed with Trump on immigration issues, made the comments amid ongoing negotiations over terms of the deployment that Trump requested earlier this month to help address a recent increase in illegal border traffic. Brown is insisting that California troops do not take part in immigration enforcement operations.

Despite the frequent invective between the two leaders, Brown said he and Trump share some border security priorities, including stopping human trafficking and drug smuggling. He noted the presence of 50 California Guard troops currently stationed near the Mexico border and hundreds more working on smuggling issues.

“It’s a very next logical step to add a couple hundred more — or more than that — and the Guard is chomping at the bit and ready to go, so I think we’ll get there,” said Brown during an appearance at the National Press Club.

California Governor Defends Immigration Stances Amid Trump Criticism

At the White House, less than a half-mile away, Trump took a different view.

“Looks like Jerry Brown and California are not looking for safety and security along their very porous Border,” the president said on Twitter. “He cannot come to terms for the National Guard to patrol and protect the Border. The high crime rate will only get higher.”

The California troops are not among the roughly 900 National Guard troops currently deployed along the border with Mexico in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, which all have Republican governors. Brown noted the others “have a political affiliation that I don’t share.”

Brown also pushed back on Trump’s criticism of California’s “sanctuary” laws, which limit cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents. Brown said the state laws, currently the target of a Justice Department lawsuit, do not interfere with the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We’re not going to do the work of the federal government,” he said. “Under the law, we’re not required to. We’re not interfering with it.”

The governor did not hold back criticism of Trump’s rhetoric and accused Republicans of exploiting “fear of the stranger” to push a “despicable” deportation agenda.

“At the Christian level, we ought to be behaving in a way that’s not just to score political points,” the former Jesuit novice said.

Brown noted the federal government’s inability to deport every undocumented immigrant in the United States — there are an estimated 11 million — and said the focus should instead be on a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system that would “integrate” the undocumented community into American society.

“Instead it’s just an inflammatory football that very low-life politicians like to exploit,” he said. “I think it’s time to just chill and recognize that they’re here.”

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