Federal Court: Trump Administration Can Deny Funds to Sanctuary Jurisdictions
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | February 2020
In a sweeping victory for the rule of law, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) can deny federal grant funds to cities, counties and states that impede federal immigration enforcement via sanctuary policies. Since other courts have ruled differently, this likely sets up the US Supreme Court to ultimately decide the issue.
The Byrne-JAG grant program provides federal funds to states and local governments to use in law enforcement, and is administered by DOJ. In July 2017, then-US Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions required applicants for Byrne-JAG grants to certify they met three conditions in order to be considered for funding: 1) compliance with the federal statute that requires information-sharing with immigration authorities (the “certification condition”); 2) that they notify federal authorities on request of the scheduled release dates of aliens in their custody (the “notice condition”); and 3) that they allow federal authorities access to aliens in their custody (the “access condition”).
Numerous cities, counties and states with sanctuary policies applied for the grant funds without certifying compliance with the conditions, had their applications denied, and then sued DOJ, claiming that it did not have the authority under federal statute or the US Constitution to impose these conditions.
A group of seven states, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island and Washington, as well as New York City, sued DOJ in Manhattan federal district (trial) court. In November 2018, US District Judge Edgardo Ramos declared the conditions invalid, granted an injunction blocking DOJ from requiring the conditions, and ordered DOJ to release the funds to the plaintiffs. The DOJ appealed.
On February 26, 2020, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed Judge Ramos’s order and held that the DOJ’s imposition of the three conditions was both constitutional and authorized by federal statute. The Second Circuit hears appeals from federal district courts in New York, Connecticut and Vermont. In a unanimous opinion the Second Circuit held:
- DOJ had statutory authority to impose the conditions, under multiple federal statutes enacted by Congress;
- neither the conditions nor the statutory authority for them violated the “anti-commandeering principle” of the Tenth Amendment; and
- the conditions were not imposed in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
In the opinion, Judge Reena Raggi, who was appointed by former President George w. Bush, noted that, “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.” Judges Ralph Winter, a Reagan appointee, and Jose Cabranes, a Clinton appointee, joined the opinion without dissent.
A DOJ spokesman praised the ruling, saying, “[i]t 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 plaintiffs condemned the ruling and vowed to continue to fight so that they can continue to receive federal taxpayer monies for policies that violate federal law. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said, “[w]e’ll see President Trump back in court and we will win.” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) added that they’re “leaving every option on the table, including taking their fight to the US Supreme Court.”