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9th Circuit: Law Enforcement Funds Cannot Depend on Immigration Enforcement

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: (AFP-OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with California leaders and public officials who oppose California's sanctuary policies in the Cabinet Room of the White House May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
By Laura Temme, Esq. | Last updated on

A recent decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Trump Administration's plan to withhold certain law enforcement funds from so-called "sanctuary cities" was invalid.

Trump officials want local governments to notify immigration agents before releasing non-citizens from jail or give federal officers access to jails. However, several cities (including Los Angeles and San Francisco) argue such practices would negatively impact public safety by discouraging immigrants from reporting crimes.

The funds at issue in the case come from Justice Department "Byrne Grants," which are generally used to aid local governments with hiring police, establishing drug courts, and setting up crime prevention programs. The statute that established these grants, as well as some independently enacted legislation, provide parameters for the Attorney General to award funds. Some even provide grounds for withholding funds, such as reductions in aid based on a state's failure to meet certain reporting requirements.

However, the court found no language giving the Attorney General's office authority to place "special conditions" on Byrne Grants - as the DOJ claimed. In the end, the court held that the immigration enforcement requirements "do not relate to a program funded by Byrne," and therefore were invalid.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean local governments are completely off the hook.

Other Funding Might Be Fair Game

The same Ninth Circuit panel voted 2-1 to uphold similar restrictions in July because the funding at stake came from a different program, Community-Oriented Policing Services. That ruling is currently on hold, as the city of Los Angeles has asked for a rehearing by the full court of appeals.

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