Trump Administration Punishing ‘Sanctuary Cities’ By Cutting Funds for Grants to Assist Law Enforcement and Combat Drug Trafficking
Attorney General Letitia James, leading a coalition of 15 Attorneys General, filed an amicus brief to protect States and localities from the Trump Administration’s efforts to punish so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by putting immigration-related conditions on federal funding for law enforcement efforts. The administration has continuously attempted to punish these jurisdictions by putting these unlawful conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (Byrne-JAG), a federal law enforcement grant allocated to States and localities. Attorney General James is also leading a coalition of six States in a separate lawsuit challenging the administration’s efforts to deny these grants.
“Local law enforcements’ ability to protect their jurisdictions should never be compromised for political gain,” said James. “These grants are critical to our efforts to protect New Yorkers and holding them political hostage is unconscionable. We will not allow the federal government to enforce unconstitutional policies that undermine public safety and put our communities in harm’s way.”
The brief was filed in support of the State of California and the City of San Francisco in their lawsuits against the Trump Administration for the denial of Byrne-JAG grants and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin grants — programs that provide vital assistance for local law enforcement efforts, including efforts to address the trafficking and sales of illicit drugs.
The Byrne-JAG program is a federal grant program that provides grants to States and localities according to a mandatory statutory formula. Congress designed Byrne-JAG to give States and localities a reliable source of law-enforcement funding, while also giving them maximum flexibility to decide how to use the funds in accordance with State and local law-enforcement policy. The COPS Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin Task Force Programs were established by Congress in 2014 and 2015, to support State and local law enforcement efforts to curb the production of methamphetamine, and the trafficking and sale of methamphetamines, heroin, and opioids.
In July 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was imposing new immigration-related conditions on Byrne-JAG funding and COPS Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin funding, including the requirement to certify compliance with a federal law that prohibits state and local governments from restricting when and how their employees may communicate with federal immigration authorities about the citizenship or immigration status of any individual.
In July 2018, the New York Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit to challenge these unconstitutional policies, arguing that the Trump Administration’s new immigration-related conditions on Byrne-JAG grants interfere with the right of States and localities to set their own law enforcement policies, and that DOJ lacks the authority to impose these new conditions. In November 2018, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of New York and the other plaintiff States in the suit, concluding that DOJ lacks the authority to condition these vital public safety funds on compliance with the new immigration-related conditions. The District Court also permanently enjoined DOJ from imposing the new conditions on the Byrne JAG awards, and directed DOJ to restore the nearly $25 million in FY 2017 Byrne JAG grants that New York and other plaintiff States were entitled to by federal statute, without the unlawful immigration-related conditions. The Trump administration appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Attorney General James was joined in filing this amicus brief by the Attorneys General of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.