Fed Funds to Cities Don’t Require Help to Immigration Agents, Judge Rules

Local jurisdictions aren’t required to provide assistance to federal immigration officials in order to receive a share of grant funding, which totals close to $100 million. In a ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles, local governments opposed to the Trump Administration’s enforcement efforts around immigration won a victory in a long-running battle with the Trump White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice (DOJ).

California state and city officials filed lawsuits against the federal government, arguing that state and local municipalities hold no obligation in helping with federal immigration enforcement as a condition for receiving a share of $98 million in grant money for local police. Last year, federal officials asked state and local representatives to “demonstrate that they have a policy of alerting immigration agents before releasing inmates and giving immigration agents access to jails in order to conduct inmate interviews and review files,” according to a New York Times report. Additionally, federal officials wanted local authorities to provide a 48-hour notice before releasing any immigrant from custody.

The Los Angeles Police Department offered vehement disagreement with the federal stance and received no money last year due to the noncompliance. In arguing their position, police department attorneys said federal officials were overreaching with their authority and that the federal imposition efforts must be reigned in.

Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuser characterized the ruling as a “complete victory” and then went on to describe it as “yet another dagger in the heart of the administration’s efforts to use federal funds as a weapon to make local jurisdictions complicit in its civil immigration enforcement policies.”

On the other side of the case, DOJ spokesman Devn O’Malley suggests an appeal on the judge’s decision as a likely next move for the department. Federal officials, he said, are entitled to issue grant funding to those areas “that prioritize the safety of their communities and their law enforcement officers when they promise to cooperate with federal immigration authorities seeking information about illegal aliens who have committed crimes.”

On the possibility of an appeal on the decision, O’Malley said, “We look forward to continuing the strong defense of our position.”