Millions of dollars in grants can be withheld by President Donald Trump’s administration over “sanctuary laws,” a federal appeals court in New York ruled.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled opposite three other federal courts on Wednesday, Feb. 26, confirming that the president’s administration can withhold grants to New York City and seven states - New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island.
The grant money, called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, is issued to local governments by the federal government to assist with local law enforcement efforts.
Current laws prevent local authorities from notifying Immigration and Customs Enforcement when an illegal immigrant is about to be released from jail.
All of the states implicated in the ruling have sued the Trump administration for withholding over the Justice Department’s April, 2017 letters “requiring proof of compliance” with U.S. immigration law for funding.
“The case implicates several of the most divisive issues confronting our country and, consequently, filling daily news headlines: national immigration policy, the enforcement of immigration laws, the status of illegal aliens in this country, and the ability of states and localities to adopt policies on such matters contrary to, or at odds with, those of the federal government,” the judges wrote in their decision.
The ruling was unanimous among the three-judge panel.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in 2017 when the suit was first filed.
Federal law had prohibited local governments from refusing to share information about the citizenship of people they arrest or place in jail after being convicted. Immigration agents have argued that it’s important to know who is in local jails illegally so they can be deported when their prison or jail term is complete.
However, many cities and states have refused to comply or submit that data.
The money that may potentially be withheld is used to fund investigative task forces, improve 911 call systems and crime laboratories, and reduce gang violence in prisons.
“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 department said in a statement.
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