An appeals court Thursday affirmed an order barring the Trump administration from requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials in order to qualify for a public safety grant used to fight gang violence in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena found that the Trump administration exceeded its authority when it placed “special conditions” on recipients of the grant program, requiring that immigration authorities be allowed into jails and that inmate-release information be provided.
The appeal was brought by the administration after a Los Angeles federal judge granted the nationwide injunction blocking the government from imposing conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant by linking the funds to compliance with the administration’s immigration policies.
“We’ve got to stand up for public safety in Los Angeles and against the Trump administration’s efforts to arrogate to itself authority it does not have,” Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said after the February ruling. “No matter who holds the presidency, the constitution is still the supreme law of land. We’re going to do everything we can to protect our city against overreach by this administration.”
Feuer sued the Trump administration after Los Angeles didn’t receive Byrne JAG funding in 2017 for the first time in 20 years. As a sanctuary city, Los Angeles did not provide the cooperation required by the grant program.
The grant has been the focus of numerous lawsuits filed by local jurisdictions.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Justice publishes applications for the grant. Since 1997, with the exception of 2017 — which is currently the subject of a pending case — the city of Los Angeles has received more than $1 million in Byrne JAG funding each year.
An allocation list for 2018 indicated that Los Angeles is eligible to receive $2.2 million for this application cycle, with $1.8 million allocated directly to the city and the remainder to the county. Byrne JAG funding has previously been used to assist in funding a community anti-gang program.
On July 25, 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that new immigration requirements would be placed on all Byrne JAG grant applications that would require jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration laws or they would be ineligible for funding.
The Los Angeles Police Department and Feuer’s office responded that they would not comply with the grant’s requirements because the conditions go against longstanding city policies to limit cooperation with federal immigration laws.
The February order by the late U.S. District Judge Manuel Real bars the administration from imposing civil immigration conditions on both the Byrne JAG and Juvenile Gang Prevention Grant, used by the LAPD to fight the MS-13 gang.
Real, who was the nation’s longest-serving active federal judge, died in June at age 95.