In this Feb. 7, 2017 photo, foreign nationals are arrested during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP, File)

In this Feb. 7, 2017 photo, foreign nationals are arrested during a targeted enforcement operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) aimed at immigration fugitives, re-entrants and at-large criminal aliens in Los Angeles. (Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP, File)

Appeals court gives Trump a win in sanctuary city case

Federal money for law enforcement can be directed to cities that help the feds enforce immigration laws.

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

SEATTLE — A federal appeals court gave President Donald Trump a rare legal win in his efforts to crack down on “sanctuary cities” Friday, upholding the Justice Department’s decision to give preferential treatment in awarding community policing grants to cities that cooperate with immigration authorities.

The 2-1 opinion overturned a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge in Los Angeles. The court said awarding extra points in the application process to cities that cooperate was consistent with the goals of the grant program created by Congress.

“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,” the Justice Department said in an emailed statement.

“This ruling reverses a lawless decision that enabled Sanctuary City policies, putting the safety and security of all Americans in harm’s way,” the White House said later Friday in an emailed statement. “We urge citizens across America to demand that Democrat leaders cease their support for Sanctuary policies that deprive Americans of life, limb, and liberty.”

In this Feb. 18, 2017 photo, thousands of people take part in the “Free the People Immigration March,” to protest actions taken by President Donald Trump and his administration, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

In this Feb. 18, 2017 photo, thousands of people take part in the “Free the People Immigration March,” to protest actions taken by President Donald Trump and his administration, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Federal courts have blocked some efforts by the administration to withhold money from sanctuary cities, including an executive order issued by the president in 2017 that would have barred them from receiving federal grants “except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” Courts also barred the Justice Department from imposing new immigration enforcement-related conditions on Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, the biggest source of federal funding to state and local jurisdictions.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling Friday concerned a different program, Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, grants, which are used to hire more police officers. Previously, the Justice Department has given extra points to cities that agree to hire veterans, or that operate early intervention systems to identify officers with personal issues, or that have suffered school shootings.

In 2017, under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department for the first time decided extra points would go to cities that listed immigration enforcement as a priority or that certified they would cooperate with federal immigration authorities by allowing them access to detainees in city jails and giving 48 hours’ notice before an undocumented immigrant was released from custody.

Los Angeles applied for a grant that year, but declined to list immigration enforcement as a priority — it listed building community trust instead — or to make the certification. It failed to win, and it sued.

The Justice Department had introduced conditions that impermissibly coerced the grant applicants to enforce federal immigration law, the city said. It also said the immigration-related conditions were contrary to the goals for which Congress had approved the grant money: to get more police on the beat, developing trust with the public.

The judges in the majority, Sandra Ikuta and Jay Bybee, both appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, rejected that.

“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,’” Ikuta wrote.

Several other jurisdictions did win funding without agreeing to the DOJ’s immigration enforcement preferences, she noted.

Judge Kim Wardlaw, appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, dissented, calling the majority’s opinion “Orwellian” in the way it tried to equate federal immigration enforcement with enhanced community policing.

“Nothing in the congressional record nor the Act itself remotely mentions immigration or immigration enforcement as a goal,” she wrote. “In the quarter-century of the Act’s existence, Congress has not once denoted civil immigration enforcement as a proper purpose for COPS grants.”

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Supporters of sanctuary cities say that encouraging local police to participate in federal immigration enforcement is counterproductive: People will be less likely to report crimes if they believe they’ll be deported for doing so. But the 9th Circuit’s opinion found that to be a question of policy, not law, said David Levine, a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law.

“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,” Levine said. “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. You don’t use a stick, you use a carrot.”

Talk to us

More in Nation-World

Supreme Court: LGBT people protected from job discrimination

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Boeing, suppliers plunge on stop-and-go 737 Max comeback

An uptick in Covid-19 cases in the U.S. has added to concerns that airlines face a prolonged recovery

Boeing goes another month without a single airliner order

Airlines are canceling thousands of flights while passengers remain too scared to fly.

Bellevue couple’s nightmare: Held in China, away from daughter

Chinese officials want the man’s father to return from the U.S. to face 20-year-old embezzling charges.

Airbus CEO warns workers it’s bleeding cash and needs cuts

Both Airbus and Boeing are preparing for job cuts as they gauge the depth of the downturn.

U.S. unsure it can meet deadline to disburse funds to tribes

The department hasn’t determined whether unique Alaska Native corporations are eligible for a share.

As people stay home, Earth turns wilder and cleaner

“There’s some silver lining for wildlife in what otherwise is a fairly catastrophic time for humans.”

Trump, Congress scramble to revive virus-hunting agency

In 2019 it was without a permanent leader, and in the Trump administration’s budget-slashing sights.

Virus casts a dark cloud over once-thriving home market

Shutdown orders have halted open houses, sellers are delaying listings and buyers are losing their jobs.

Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.”

Trump signs $2.2T stimulus after swift congressional votes

Both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation’s history.

Senate unanimously passes massive coronavirus aid plan

The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history.