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Judge Rules Against Denying Grants To ‘Sanctuary Cities’

A ruling by a federal judge on October 5 may have put a categorical end to the Trump administration’s policy of denying federal grants to “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement policies—such cities include California, San Francisco, and Austin among others.

US District Judge William Orrick III ruled that the Justice Department cannot place immigration-related conditions on federal grants, affirming similar rulings from judges in Chicago and Philadelphia. He also ruled that an immigration law, Section 1373 of Title 8 of the US Code of Laws, is unconstitutional.

Section 1373 demands the complete and uninhibited communication between a federal, state, or local government entity and the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the disclosure of an individual’s immigration status.

In his 61-page ruling, Orrick acknowledged and agreed with the opinions of other courts on the matter, writing, “I find that: the challenged conditions violate the separation of powers; Section 1373 is unconstitutional; the Attorney General exceeds the Spending Power in violation of the United States Constitution by imposing the challenged conditions.”

Orrick added that a nationwide injunction on the policy would be justified given that it affects all jurisdictions and not just identified sanctuary jurisdictions like California and San Francisco, but nonetheless stayed the nationwide scope of the injunction.

Consequent to his ruling on the policy, Orrick also ordered that the Justice Department to release $28.3 million in grant funds, making up for the grants denied, to both California and the city of San Francisco. He argued that withholding the funding has had an adverse impact on public safety in the affected jurisdictions that should be remedied immediately.

Other jurisdictions including New York City have noted that stricter and more aggressive immigration enforcement—a requirement to receive the federal grant—has eroded the trust that immigrant communities place in law enforcement, resulting in more crimes going unreported.

“The evident consequence of a widespread fear of deportation within Latino communities is an underreporting of violent crimes such as domestic violence and gang-related violence,” Orrick explained, pointing out the extensive literature on the decline of crime reporting among Hispanics in the US.

The ruling removes immigration policy-based conditions on two grant programs, namely the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, which have long provided local law enforcement agencies with much-needed funding. So far, the Justice Department has withheld $56.6 million in grants, affecting six states and a number of other cities and jurisdictions that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement.

If you or a loved one needs to know more about so-called sanctuary city policies in Texas, especially Austin, talk to the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215.5225 to learn more from immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.

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