Federal Court Hands Trump Administration a Major Victory Against Sanctuary Jurisdictions
By Heather Ham-Warren | FAIR Take | February 2020
On Wednesday, a federal court of appeals ruled that the Trump administration can withhold federal law enforcement funding from states and cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Sanctuary policies are laws or policies that prohibit state or local officials from inquiring, acting on, or reporting an individual’s immigration status—even when there is reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally. These dangerous policies allow criminal aliens to be released back into communities, often to recommit crimes, instead of being transferred to federal custody. Sanctuary policies also waste taxpayer dollars, both on the state and federal levels, by requiring law enforcement to duplicate efforts and thwarting cooperation between enforcement agencies.
In 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that law enforcement agencies that do not comply with DOJ’s requirements will be ineligible to receive Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants Program (Byrne JAG) funding for the subsequent fiscal year. Byrne JAG funds help state and local law enforcement agencies fund multiple components of the criminal justice system, including multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces, crime prevention and domestic violence programs, courts, corrections, treatment, and justice information sharing initiatives.
Since the administration’s announcement, the decision has been entangled in the judicial process while the battle over sanctuary policies has continued to escalate.
Last week, a three-judge panel for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision in favor of the federal government. Judge Reena Raggi—appointed by former President George W. Bush—stated that the government has a valid interest in getting state and local officials to cooperate with Homeland Security — and, under the law, a tool to do so.
“There is something disquieting in the idea of states and localities seeking federal funds to enforce their own laws while themselves hampering the enforcement of federal laws, or worse, violating those laws,” she wrote in the opinion for the three-judge panel, which also consisted Clinton and Reagan appointees.
The DOJ applauded the court’s decision in a statement of their own: “Today’s decision rightfully recognizes the lawful authority of the attorney general to ensure that Department of Justice grant recipients are not at the same time thwarting federal law enforcement priorities. The grant conditions here require states and cities that receive DOJ grants to share information about criminals in custody,” the spokesman said. “The federal government uses this information to enforce national immigration laws—policies supported by successive Democrat and Republican administrations.”
Under the DOJ’s guidance for the grant there are three conditions that state and local law enforcement agencies must meet to be eligible:
- They cannot restrict communications with federal authorities about the citizenship
and immigration status of its incarcerated aliens;
- They must provide federal authorities with information on the release dates of its
incarcerated aliens, with at least 48 hours’ notice (if requested by the federal
- They must allow federal immigration authorities access to incarcerated aliens.