LOS ANGELES (CN) – The city of Los Angeles wants a federal court to block the Justice Department from imposing conditions on law enforcement grants, arguing in court papers Thursday that the city is being cut off from funding for refusing to help enforce federal immigration laws.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a motion in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting the DOJ from imposing “unconstitutional conditions” as a prerequisite to receiving funds that support law enforcement activity.
In October 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed California’s “sanctuary state” laws establishing safe zones around schools, courts and hospitals, and limiting state and local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
In response, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the DOJ would no longer award law enforcement support grants to cities and states that deny immigration agents access to local jails or fail to give 48-hour notice before releasing undocumented immigrants.
Failure to comply would risk eligibility for the $385 million Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, Sessions said.
Since 1997, LA has received over $1 million annually from the grant program, including $1.8 million in 2016, according to Feuer’s office, adding that over $800,000 in grant funding supported the city’s gang reduction programs in 2016.
Feuer said in a statement Thursday his office wouldn’t allow the Trump administration to hold federal grant funding “hostage” in order to advance conservative immigration policy goals.
“We’re continuing to do everything in our power to stop the Trump administration from unconstitutionally tying federal civil immigration enforcement to the funding of L.A.’s anti-gang efforts,” Feuer said.
The Los Angeles Police Department decided decades ago that police officers should not engage in civil immigration enforcement, Feuer said.
California stands to lose $31 million in funding if the federal government cuts off criminal justice grants to the state.
In September 2017, a federal judge in Chicago blocked two of the three new grant requirements, finding Sessions exceeded his authority by requiring jurisdictions let federal agents access local jails and give 48-hours notice before releasing undocumented immigrants.
In January, the DOJ doubled down on its position by ordering 23 cities, counties and states, under the threat of subpoenas, to turn over documents that prove their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
In LA’s lawsuit against Sessions over a separate grant, a U.S. District Court ruled in April that the agency’s new requirements for applicants were unlawful, thereby imposing a nationwide injunction on immigration-related conditions for federal grants.
An appeals court lifted the injunction order in June.
In Thursday’s motion, Feuer said the legal precedent from that decision supports the city’s claim that immigration-related conditions “imposed on the Byrne grant are unlawful as well.”
A coalition of six states filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to block what they characterized as the DOJ’s overreaching efforts to punish sanctuary states and cities by conditioning federal funding on compliance with federal immigration policies.
A DOJ spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.
Feuer has said the city’s policies fully comply with federal law, which only requires that state and local governments not prohibit employees from disclosing an individual’s immigration status to federal agents upon request.
Sessions has argued in public statements that “sanctuary state” policies make communities less safe by protecting undocumented immigrants who commit crimes.