Appeals Court Says White House Can Withhold Funds for Immigrant-Friendly Policies
NEW YORK — The Trump administration can withhold millions in crime-fighting grants from states to force cooperation with immigration enforcement, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The decision reversed a lower court decision on the money named for New York police officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in 1988 while guarding the Queens home of an immigrant targeted by gangs for reporting crimes.
The decision by the three-judge panel hinged on the federal government’s broad authority to enforce immigration policy, even when those policies are opposed by cities and states.
“We cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue. These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight,” the court wrote.
The office of Attorney General Letitia James, which led a coalition of states that sued the Department of Justice over the grants, did not immediately comment on the decision. Besides New York, the states that joined the suit are Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia and Rhode Island.
A lower court ruling had found that the withholding of funds violated the separation of powers. It diverges from other appeals courts around the country that have sided with the states, setting the stage for the case to possibly head to the Supreme Court.
Then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the retaliatory measure in 2017, saying the money from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program would be withheld until immigration agents were allowed access to jails and given notice when undocumented immigrants were about to be released. The grant program distributes $250 million to state and local governments for crime fighting efforts.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said.
The clash between ICE and New York City over its sanctuary city status has only escalated since then. In January, ICE Director Matthew Albence blamed Mayor de Blasio for implementing policies that he said allowed an undocumented immigrant to allegedly sexually abuse and kill a 92-year-old woman.
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