LOS ANGELES — When drivers entered California recently from the borders with Arizona and Nevada, they were greeted with signs welcoming them to an “official sanctuary state” that is home to “felons” and “illegals.” It was a prank, but the message was clear: By entering California, they might as well have been entering foreign territory.
And in many ways it feels like that these days, as the growing divide between California and the Trump administration erupted this past week over a dizzying range of flash points, from immigration to taxes to recreational marijuana use.
What had been a rhetorical battle between a liberal state and a conservative administration is now a full-fledged fight.
Just as Californians were enjoying their first days of legal pot smoking, the Trump administration moved to enforce federal laws against the drug. On the same day, the federal government said it would expand offshore oil drilling, which California’s Senate leader called an assault on “our pristine coastline.”
When President Trump signed a law that would raise the tax bills of many Californians by restricting deductions, lawmakers in this state proposed a creative end-around — essentially making state taxes charitable contributions, and fully deductible. And California’s refusal to help federal agents deport undocumented immigrants prompted one administration official to suggest that state politicians should be arrested.
The clash between California and Mr. Trump and his supporters — between one America and another — began the morning after he won the presidency, when Kevin de León, the State Senate leader, and his counterpart in the Assembly, Anthony Rendon, said they “woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.”
Since then the fight has metastasized into what could be the greatest contest over values between a White House and a state since the 1950s and 1960s, when the federal government moved to end segregation and expand civil rights.
Back then, of course, the ideologies and values at issue were reversed, as conservative Southerners, under the banner of states’ rights, fought violently to uphold white supremacy. In these times it is liberal California making the case for states’ rights, traditionally a Republican position.
“It seems like every day brings a new point of contention between two very different types of leadership,” said Jim Newton, a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles.
And it does not end there: New laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 in California raised the minimum wage, allowed parents to withhold gender on birth certificates and strengthened what were already some of the toughest gun laws in the country by restricting ammunition sales and assault weapons, and barring school officials from carrying concealed weapons at work. Taken together, the measures are the surest signs yet of how California is setting itself apart from Washington — and many parts of America, too.
Mr. de León, along with almost the entire leadership of California, has been a bulwark against the Trump administration. Mr. de León introduced the so-called sanctuary state legislation — the California Values Act — that restricts state authorities from cooperating with federal immigration agents, and places limits on agents entering schools, churches, hospitals or courthouses to detain undocumented immigrants. The law went into effect Jan. 1, provoking a prankster — presumably a Trump supporter — to put up those highway signs, and setting off a war of words between California and the administration.