Trump Says Federal Funding for ‘Sanctuary’ Cities Will Be Withheld

New York police set up a perimeter outside the 41st police precinct at the scene of a police involved shooting, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in New York.

New York police set up a perimeter outside the 41st police precinct at the scene of a police involved shooting, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in New York. AP Photo/John Minchillo


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The president’s statement comes after a federal appellate court ruled that the administration could withhold law enforcement grants from jurisdictions that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

President Trump said Thursday the federal government will begin withholding federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities after a recent federal appellate court sided with his administration.

“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. Do not protect criminals!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The tweet appeared to reference a recent decision by the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals, which found the administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants to cities and states that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities.

In a ruling issued last week, a three-judge panel became the first appeals court to back the administration on the issue. Three other circuits, in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, have upheld injunctions barring the administration from enforcement of some—if not all—of the grant conditions. 

The federal funding in question is the $250 million the Justice Department distributes annually to state and local governments for public safety initiatives through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Local police departments have used the funding for everything from gunshot detection technology to new interview recording equipment.  

In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new stipulations for the Byrne JAG Program, including requiring local law enforcement agencies  to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in order to be considered eligible for the federal law enforcement funds. Specifically, cities and counties were told they would become ineligible for grants if they barred federal agents from their prisons and jails and needed to provide at least 48 hours’ notice before releasing undocumented immigrants so deportation officers could be on hand to pick them up. State and local governments would also lose eligibility if they prohibited police from communicating with federal immigration authorities “regarding the citizenship or immigration status” of individuals.

Several cities and states quickly filed multiple lawsuits to contest the stipulations, which they said could harm local governments’ relationships with immigrant communities.

In this case, a lower court judge ruled that the attorney general lacked the statutory authority to impose the grant stipulations.

Writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Reena Raggi reversed that ruling and said the attorney general was authorized to impose the new rules.

“To be sure, the Attorney General’s authority in identifying qualified Byrne applicants is not limitless but, rather, a function of the particular requirements prescribed by Congress,” Raggi wrote. “Not surprisingly, however, Congress has prescribed those requirements broadly, enlisting the Attorney General to delineate the rules and forms for them to be satisfied.”

The 2nd Circuit’s ruling applies only to the 2017 round of Byrne JAG funds and only in the jurisdictions that were part of the litigation. The lawsuit was brought by New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Virginia, Rhode Island and New York City.

Spokespeople for the attorneys general of Connecticut and New Jersey said discussions about next steps in the case are ongoing. States could either appeal the case for a rehearing before the full 2nd Circuit or, given the split in circuit decisions, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Justice Department website that provides information on the Byrne JAG program indicates that only the awards for 2017 have been held up by ongoing litigation.

A DOJ spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the litigation.  

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty.

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