President Donald Trump has announced that his administration will withhold funds from sanctuary cities in line with a February court ruling that decided the government can do so to states that don’t comply with federal immigration policies.
“As per recent Federal Court ruling, the Federal Government will be withholding funds from Sanctuary Cities. They should change their status and go non-Sanctuary,” Trump wrote in a statement. “Do not protect criminals!”
The U.S. Court of Appeals of the 2nd Circuit court in New York on Feb. 26 announced the ruling, which overturned a lower court decision that had ordered the Justice Department (DOJ) to release the funds to New York City and seven states—New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and Rhode Island.
The funds were held under department policy, but the lower court ruled that the DOJ lacked the authority to impose several immigration-related conditions on Congress’s federal grant program, known as the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (or the Byrne JAG).
The Byrne JAG grant program was created to support a number of initiatives including law enforcement, prosecution, and court, prevention and education, and other related areas, via funding to states and local governments.
In 2017, the DOJ imposed three conditions that state and city applicants had to comply with to access the grant program. The conditions required states and cities to remove any restrictions on communication between state and local agencies and officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); give DHS access to detention facilities to interview inmates about their immigration status; and give DHS at notice when a wanted alien is scheduled to be released from a detention facility.
But the seven states sued the department in 2018 asking for injunctive relief from the three conditions. The district court ruled in favor of the states, blocking the department from enforcing the conditions on the challengers and ordering the department to release funds to them.
Upon appeal to the 2nd Circuit, the three-judge panel reversed the decision, ruling that the “plain language of the relevant statutes authorizes the Attorney General to impose the challenged conditions,” and that the appeals court “cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue.”
Sanctuary cities are locales that have enacted measures to prevent local officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If an illegal alien is arrested or convicted of a crime and ICE requests custody of them, sanctuary policies can prevent law enforcement from honoring the request. Eight states and hundreds of cities across the United States are recognized as sanctuaries for illegal immigrants.
In early February, Attorney General William Barr announced that the DOJ will take significant actions against sanctuary policies in local and state governments across the nation.
Trump in his State of the Union Address in early February highlighted a piece of legislation that, if passed, would allow U.S. citizens—such as families of victims of criminal acts by illegal immigrants—to sue sanctuary cities and states.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.
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