California legal officials announced Monday that they are suing the Department of Justice in order to block the government from withholding certain law enforcement grants from sanctuary cities.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said they will file separate federal lawsuits to stop the DOJ from implementing new eligibility guidelines for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which gives money to police departments to buy vehicles and other equipment.
Herrera, who had previously announced San Francisco’s lawsuit late Friday, appeared at a press conference with Becerra to highlight their “coordinated effort” against the Trump administration’s ongoing crackdown on sanctuary cities.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in July that the DOJ would no longer give Byrne grants to cities that refuse to comply with certain immigration enforcement policies. Under new conditions attached to the grant program, local jurisdictions must give federal immigration authorities unfettered access to jails and notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at least 48 hours in advance of the impending release of inmates wanted on an immigration detainers.
Herrra called those conditions “unauthorized and unlawful,” and said the Trump administration was engaging in a “backdoor attempt” to get states and cities to enforce federal law.
“Immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job,” he said. “They can do it in San Francisco and every other city in the country. We are not stopping them.”
California plans to file a similar a federal lawsuit, Becerra said. The state stands to lose $28 million in federal funds if the new Byrne eligibility requirements are allowed to take effect, according to Becerra’s office.
Becerra called the DOJ’s grant policy a “low blow” against police officers who shouldn’t have to choose between enforcing immigration law and maintaining the trust of immigrant communities.
“This is pure intimidation intended to force our law enforcement into changing the policies and practices that they have determined promote public safety,” he said.
Both lawsuits name Sessions and the DOJ as defendants, and seek a court order to prevent the Trump administration from attaching new conditions to the law enforcement grants.
Trump had previously threatened to withhold a larger pot of federal funds from cities that shield illegal immigrants or refuse to honor immigration detention requests, but a federal judge in San Francisco limited the scope of that policy to grants specifically tied to law enforcement purposes. In response to that order, Sessions crafted a more modest policy that attached conditions to just the Byrne grant program.
With their latest lawsuits, San Francisco and California are challenging the administration’s authority to unilaterally impose new conditions on any federal grants approved by Congress.
The actions mirror the lawsuit that Chicago filed last week, which says that the DOJ’s grant rules are an attempt to “federalize” local law enforcement, and would force police to violate the constitutional rights of alien jail inmates.
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