Sessions Cuts Off DOJ Grant Funds to Sanctuary Cities

(CN) – U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will no longer award $385 million in grants to cities and states that refuse to help federal agents detain undocumented immigrants at local jails.

Starting with fiscal year 2017, the department will only award a criminal justice grant to cities and states that let immigration agents access local jails and give 48-hour notice before releasing undocumented immigrants.

“This is consistent with long-established cooperative principles among law enforcement agencies,” Sessions said Tuesday. “This is what the American people should be able to expect from their cities and states, and these long overdue requirements will help us take down MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs, and make our country safer.”

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, or Byrne JAG, aims to reduce gun violence, equip officers with body cameras, improve mental health services, and “reduce unnecessary incarceration in a manner that promotes public safety,” according to the Justice Department.

The department has requested $385 million in funding for the program in fiscal year 2017, a $7.5 million increase over the last three fiscal years.

California, which is currently considering a proposal to enact statewide sanctuary policies, received $18.24 million in funding from the program last year.

San Francisco, which sued President Donald Trump over an executive order to withhold federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions, was awarded $523,000 in program grants last year.

Santa Clara County, which also filed suit over the executive order, received $14,800 from the program.

In a brief opposing the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss its lawsuit, San Francisco argued the federal government should not place conditions on grants that are “unrelated to immigration enforcement.”

San Francisco claims the federal government should not be allowed to coerce it into violating the Fourth Amendment’s due process protections, arguing it is unconstitutional to hold immigrants on detainer requests, rather than warrants that are signed by judges and based on probable cause.

The city maintains policies that limit cooperation with immigration authorities make communities safer because undocumented immigrants are not afraid to report crimes and give the police information.

However, the attorney general sees things differently.

“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said in his announcement Tuesday.

Last week, a federal judge denied the Justice Department’s motion to reconsider an injunction blocking a key part of Trump’s sanctuary city executive order. The judge also refused to dismiss San Francisco and Santa Clara County’s lawsuits against the federal government.

In an emailed comment, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Sessions’ grant conditions may be unconstitutional.

“Attorney General Sessions is imposing new conditions on certain grant funds, without apparent authorization from Congress and in violation of the Constitution,” Herrera said. “We are reviewing these new grant documents, but we remain confident that San Francisco’s sanctuary city policies comply with federal law and that San Francisco continues to be eligible for grant funding.

Meanwhile, Supervisor Jane Kim said the city’s commitment to sanctuary would not waver.

“Threatening to cut San Francisco’s criminal justice grant funding because we are a sanctuary city will not change our commitment to protect our undocumented residents,” Kim said in a comment conveyed by her legislative assistant on Wednesday.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s Office and other members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment on the Justice Department’s announcement.

 

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