DOJ blocked from restricting federal grants to ‘sanctuary cities’
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DOJ blocked from restricting federal grants to ‘sanctuary cities’

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled on Friday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) conditions for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne JAG) targeted at so-called “sanctuary cities” are unconstitutional.

The Byrne JAG “support law enforcement efforts by providing additional personnel, equipment, supplies, training, and other assistance to applicants.” In 2017 the DOJ set requirements that Byrne JAG recepients must:

(i) provide the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (“ICE”) access to their correctional facilities for immigration enforcement purposes,

(ii) provide notice to ICE of the release date for detainees, and

(iii) certify their compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a statute which prohibits state and local governments from restricting information-sharing with the Department of Homeland Security

The DOJ also announced that grants under the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) would also require § 1373 compliance. COPS grants support investigations into methamphetamine manufacture and distribution.

The court ruled that the restrictions violated the Separation of Powers and Spending Clause of the Constitution. The judge determined that Congress did not give give the Attorney General authority to impose the conditions. The judge also found that § 1373 was unconstitutional because it “shifts a portion of immigration enforcement costs onto the States,” entangling federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement.

The court also found that the implementation of the restrictions were arbitrary and capricious. The DOJ did not provide adequate evidence to support the restrictions and large bodies of evidence show that the sanctuary laws support increased reporting of crimes by immigrants and undocumented immigrants.

The judge granted an injunction against the implementation of the restrictions in San Francisco and California. A nationwide injunction against enforcement of the restrictions was stayed until the Ninth Circuit considers the case on appeal. The court also granted a writ of mandamus requiring the DOJ to release Byrne JAG and COPS grant funding to California and San Francisco.

In November a judge the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made a similar ruling against the DOJ in regards to withheld funds against Philadelphia. A three-judge panel in the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit also ruled against the DOJ regarding the restrictions in April in a lawsuit filed by Chicago.