Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered a harsh rebuke of the judiciary Tuesday, asserting that a barrage of court decisions that have effectively blocked key parts of the Trump administration’s immigration policies smack of “judicial superiority.”
Citing at least 20 adverse rulings in the past year — from stalling President Trump’s travel ban to blocking an effort to end protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children — Sessions said the decisions threatened to upend the guiding principle of the judiciary as a co-equal branch of the government.
“We’re not acting irrationally or emotionally,” Sessions told a gathering of the National Association of Attorneys General.
The attorney general specifically referred to the Supreme Court refusal Mondayto review an earlier order that the Trump administration continue a program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
The denial leaves in place the popular DACA program, which has protected some 690,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation and enabled them to get work permits.
The program had faced a March 5 deadline for congressional action set by Trump last summer. Two federal courts have ruled the administration’s action was illegal.
The justices could have agreed to hear the case this spring, leapfrogging a federal appeals court based in California that has been sympathetic to the cause of immigrants. They also could have overruled federal District Judge William Alsup without a hearing.
Instead, they simply allowed the case to run its normal course through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
“It is assumed that the Court of Appeals will proceed expeditiously to decide this case,” the justices said in denying the Trump administration’s petition. The case still could come to the high court in the future.
DACA ruling a temporary win
The action represents a temporary victory for the young adults brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents or guardians under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established by President Barack Obama in 2012. And it represents a major setback for the Trump administration, which vowed to continue the legal battle in the lower courts.
Sessions Tuesday vowed to continue to defend the administration’s position, at one point calling the tangle of court rulings “maddening.”
The attorney general also reasserted the administration’s support for hard-line policies against so-called sanctuary cities.
Sanctuary cities is a general term that describes more than 300 local governments that have limited their cooperation with federal immigration officials. Trump attacked them repeatedly during his presidential campaign, arguing that local leaders are allowing dangerous undocumented immigrants to roam free in their communities.
The local communities have argued that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility and that the U.S. Constitution prohibits Washington from forcing them to assist. Even so, many states led by Republicans are following Trump’s lead.
Sessions said Tuesday that the cities’ position has been “deeply frustrating.”