California Asks Judge To Block Trump Policy On Federal Grants To Sanctuary Cities

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday asked a federal judge to block the Trump administration’s plan to withhold law enforcement grants from states and cities that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities.

Becerra’s motion for a nationwide injunction stems from a lawsuit he brought against the federal government in August 2017, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new eligibility requirements for the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which provides federal funding to local law enforcement agencies.

The Trump administration lacks the authority to place additional conditions on Byrne grants that aren’t specifically named by Congress, Becerra argued in his motion. He asked federal Judge William H. Orrick for a summary judgement that would stop the Justice Department from applying the new requirements and force it to disburse the Byrne grants to California and other affected jurisdictions. (RELATED: ‘Angel’ Father Seeks To End California’s Sanctuary Laws With Grassroots Ballot Drive)

“The Trump administration has it backwards — withholding millions of dollars in critical public safety grants from local police and sheriffs doesn’t make our communities safer. It leaves them more vulnerable,” Becerra said in a statement announcing the motion. “Law enforcement agencies in California and nationwide deserve access to critical resources needed to promote public safety, and we will continue to fight on their behalf.”

As part of the administration’s crackdown on sanctuary jurisdictions, Sessions said last July that DOJ would no longer award Byrne grants to cities and states that run afoul of 8 USC 1373, a statute that requires local officials to share certain immigration-related information with government. The policy also required JAG grantees to give immigration authorities unfettered access to jails and notify them at least 48 hours in advance of the impending release of inmates wanted on immigration detainers.

In response to the new conditions, both California and the city of Chicago sued the Justice Department, accusing the government of a backdoor attempt to get states and cities to enforce federal law. Chicago won a nationwide injunction against two of the three eligibility requirements in September, but a federal appeals court later narrowed that decision to apply only to the city.

As a result, the Justice Department has begun to award Byrne grants to some jurisdictions but not others, including all cities and counties in California. The government has withheld $28 million in JAG funding from California since the new conditions were put in place, according to Becerra’s office.

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