A federal appeals court panel dealt a blow Friday to Los Angeles’ efforts to continue receiving federal public-safety grants despite its hard-line stance against assisting U.S. immigration authorities.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court ruling barring the U.S. Department of Justice from forcing local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration policies to receive a public safety grant.
Los Angeles sued the DOJ in 2017 after its application for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant was rejected. The city had receive the grants in past years, including a more than $3 million grant in 2016.
But in 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that jurisdictions receiving a COPS grant would need to commit to a number of new rules, including notifying immigration agents before releasing jail inmates and giving federal agents access to their detention facilities and data files.
City leaders said those rules put Los Angeles — a city notoriously friendly toward immigrants — at a disadvantage. The Los Angeles Police Department since 1979 has had a policy of restricting its enforcement of federal immigration laws.
U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ruled in favor of the city last year, setting a nationwide precedent preventing the Justice Department from tying local immigration enforcement policies to the COPS grant.
But on Friday, the 9th Circuit panel, in a 2-1 ruling, found that the DOJ “did not exceed its statutory authority in awarding bonus points to applicants that selected the illegal immigration focus area.”
The panel’s reversal of Real’s decision is a rare victory for President Donald Trump’s administration in the 9th Circuit, a court Trump has repeatedly criticized for what he has deemed a liberal bent.
“This ruling reverses a lawless decision that enabled sanctuary city policies, putting the safety and security of all Americans in harm’s way,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “Sanctuary cities knowingly release criminal aliens out of their jails and back into our communities, instead of cooperating with ICE to ensure they are kept in custody and safely removed from the United States.”
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer told the Los Angeles Times the city is considering all of its legal options, which include a possible appeal to the full 9th Circuit.
“If this decision were to stand, this or another administration could add other conditions, favoring jurisdictions that criminalize abortions or allow teachers to have guns in classrooms,” Feuer told The Times.
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