Sanctuary cities may need to rethink their status — if they wish to get federal funding for projects. A Seattle federal appeals court on July 12 upheld the Justice Department’s plan to give preferential treatment to cities that cooperate with immigration officials when awarding community grants. In an emailed statement, the Justice Department said:
“The Department is pleased that the Court recognized the lawful authority of the Administration to provide favorable treatment when awarding discretionary law-enforcement grants to jurisdictions that assist in enforcing federal immigration laws.”
This ruling overturned a nationwide injunction issued last year in Los Angeles. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle focused on the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, which are used to improve community safety by hiring more police officers. Previously, extra points were given to cities that promoted safety by hiring veterans, had suffered school shootings, and identified officers with personal issues in need of help.
In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions provided extra points to cities that made immigration enforcement a top priority. Cities wishing to receive this grant would need to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, grant federal law enforcement access to city jails, and provide 48-hour notice before an illegal immigrant was released from custody – all things sanctuary cities prohibit.
The city of Los Angeles had applied for a grant, listing building community trust as its main objective, but it failed to win the funding. It then sued the federal government, saying the conditions of the grant were not as Congress had authorized: to put more police officers on duty. In a 2-1 vote, the judges argued that immigration enforcement did meet the requirements.
Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote:
“Cooperation relating to enforcement of federal immigration law is in pursuit of the general welfare, and meets the low bar of being germane to the federal interest in providing the funding to ‘address crime and disorder problems, and otherwise … enhance public safety.’”
Opponents of forced cooperation between cities and federal immigration officers say this will only increase crime since illegals are afraid to report criminal behavior for fear of being deported themselves. However, many advocates share the opposite opinion: Sanctuary cities are dangerous because criminals are released unchecked back into neighborhoods, instead of being processed by ICE, which could work to deport them. While undocumented immigrants may indeed be nervous about reporting a crime, sanctuary cities are not the answer.
With this win, the Trump administration moves forward one step in its campaign to control illegal immigration. One reason this injunction was overruled, and in such a progressive and liberal city as Seattle, may be the different tactic used to fight it. Professor David Levine from the University of California Hastings College of the Law said:
“What the Justice Department was doing before, they were trying to force sanctuary cities to do things, and yank money from them retroactively if they didn’t. They’ve gotten a little more sophisticated now. They’re saying, ‘You don’t have to take this money, but if you want it, it comes with strings attached.’
“’That’s a well-understood way the federal government gets states to do things,’ he added. ‘You don’t use a stick, you use a carrot.’”
This ruling does not necessarily mean that only non-sanctuary cities will be able to receive financial grants. Judge Ikuta pointed out that other jurisdictions did win funding even though they did not list the immigration enforcement preferences.
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