Why Kern County's sheriff hopes feds win 'sanctuary state' lawsuit

    Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood speaks to Eyewitness News in his office in Bakersfield, Calif., Thursday, March 8, 2018. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

    The immigration battle is heating up, as the Trump administration sues California over its so-called sanctuary state laws.

    Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the lawsuit at an annual gathering of law enforcement organizations in Sacramento.

    This is the latest in the battle between the federal government and state over immigration laws.

    Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was at the speech and was able to speak with Sessions. Youngblood told Eyewitness News on Thursday that he agrees with the lawsuit and hopes the federal government wins.

    "What I really want is for ICE to be able to do their job and follow federal law," Youngblood said. "I've said all along I think the United States needs to come in and sue the state of California, because I think we've gone off the rails."

    Youngblood said he disagrees with Senate Bill 54, but since it is the law his office will follow it.

    "We don't do sweeps, we don't go on sweeps with ICE, we don't deport people," he said. "When you get arrested, we don't ask people if you are in this country illegally of not. It's not something that we need to know."

    Youngblood continued, "I won't shy away from a criminal because they are in this country illegally, because it doesn't matter to us. It's important the public knows that our job is keeping them safe, and if you're in this country illegally and you're living in our community, it's my job to keep you safe, and I'm committed to do that and sworn to do that."

    Youngblood said he predicted federal immigration agents would increase enforcement as a direct response to the state laws.

    "When you push the federal government into a corner where they can't do their job, they have to do something," he said. "There are going to be unintended consequences, and we're now seeing those. What we're seeing is some of our good hardworking farmworkers or whatever they're doing here, not committing crimes, getting swept up by ICE because they are living with someone who ICE is looking for."

    Youngblood said he feels local law enforcement is stuck in the middle of the immigration feud, and he hopes the lawsuit brings clarity.

    "I think this nonsense of having a sanctuary city, county or state for people who commit crimes is ridiculous," he said. "It's clear to me that immigration is a federal responsibility, not a state or county. I think when California interferes with immigration enforcement, they're overstepped the line."

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