Trump can withhold funds from sanctuary cities, court rules

by WorldTribune Staff, July 16, 2019

The Trump administration is within its authority to deny federal funds to sanctuary cities based on a merit system that is in place, a federal court ruled.

Los Angeles officially declared itself a sanctuary city in February.

The July 12 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge, who sided with the city of Los Angeles in its lawsuit over Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, which are determined by a point system that takes into account whether the city applying is a sanctuary city.

“Cooperation relating to enforcement of federal immigration law is in pursuit of the general welfare, and meets the low bar of being germane to the federal interest in providing the funding to ‘address crime and disorder problems, and otherwise … enhance public safety,’ ” wrote Judge Sandra Ikuta, one of the two judges in the majority.

Ikuta’s opinion was joined by Judge Jay Bybee. Both were appointed by President George W. Bush. Judge Kim Wardlaw, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, dissented.

A 1994 federal law authorizes the Department of Justice “to provide a range of federal assistance to state and local law enforcement,” Ikuta wrote, describing the Department of Justice’s administering “a competitive grant program that allocates a limited pool of funds.”

“In 2017, Los Angeles applied for a grant, but failed to score highly enough to earn one,” Ikuta continued for the three-judge panel.

The Trump administration found Los Angeles did not qualify for the grant because it failed to receive enough points under 2017 rules put in place by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which gave cities extra points for cooperating with the federal immigration officials with illegal immigrants who have been detained in city jails.

The Justice Department praised the decision.

“The Department is pleased that the Court recognized the lawful authority of the administration to provide favorable treatment when awarding discretionary law-enforcement grants to jurisdictions that assist in enforcing federal immigration laws,” the Justice Department said in a statement.


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