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California Joins Fight Over Justice Dept. Funding for Sanctuary Cities

The state of California is teaming up with the city of San Francisco against new conditions on federal crime-fighting grants imposed on sanctuary cities by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The state of California is teaming up with the city of San Francisco against new conditions on federal crime-fighting grants imposed on sanctuary cities by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Starting in fiscal year 2017, the Justice Department will cut off $385 million in funding from cities and states who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

States and cities who want to receive funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program will have to provide Department of Homeland Security with 48 hours’ notice before releasing any undocumented immigrants from custody and give immigration agents unfettered access to local jails, according to an announcement by Sessions on July 25.

California received $18.24 million in funding from the program last year.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state could lose $28 million in Byrne JAG funds if it fails to comply with the new grant conditions. San Francisco would lose $1.4 million.

Becerra accused Trump of manipulating cities and states into enforcing federal immigration laws with threats to much-needed grants.

“By placing unconstitutional immigration enforcement conditions on public safety grants, the Trump administration is threatening to harm a range of law enforcement initiatives across California. This is pure intimidation intended to force our law enforcement into changing the policies and practices that they have determined promote public safety,” Becerra said. “It’s a low blow to our brave men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement.”

Becerra said the state deserves to get back what it pays into the federal treasury simply because it won’t follow President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

“We abide by federal law and respect the Constitution. The federal government should do the same. The Trump administration has instituted polices that are not only reckless but illegal, and it’s our right and our duty to fight to protect our law enforcement officers and the resources they rely upon to get their work done,” he said.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, also at the press conference held at City Hall, said Trump is trying to “rewrite the rules” to have his way on immigration.

“Once again, this president is attempting an end-run around the Constitution,” Herrera said. “The Department of Justice does not have authority from Congress to impose these conditions, and for good reason. In the name of public safety, this president is undercutting law enforcement and trying to withhold money used to reduce crime. That’s like burning a mountain of coal in the name of environmental protection. Maybe that makes sense to this White House, but it doesn’t add up for most Americans.”

Herrera said there are several problems with the conditions.

“One is that too often immigration agents are wrong,” he said. “The new grant conditions mean residents and U.S. citizens could be jailed without cause and cities could be liable for holding someone past their release date.”

On Friday, San Francisco sued the Justice Department to declare the grant conditions unconstitutional, and Becerra announced that the state will file its own companion lawsuit Monday.

In January, San Francisco and Santa Clara County sued to stop Trump’s executive order denying federal funds cities who refuse to allow staff to communicate with federal immigration agents about someone’s citizenship or immigration status.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III blocked part of the order in April, and denied the government’s motion to dismiss the municipalities’ lawsuit in July.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves,” Orrick wrote in his April ruling.

On Monday, Herrera blasted what he called Trump’s latest attempt to sidestep the law.

“We stopped him in court. Then he tried to sneak through a change in the law by burying it deep in the budget. Now he’s trying to have one of his departments rewrite the rules,” Herrera said. “So we’re back in court once again, with allies by our side, to compel his administration to follow the law.”

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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