Los Angeles – A United States District Court has issued a preliminary injunction barring the Trump Administration from imposing civil immigration conditions on a 2017 federal public safety grant used to combat gang violence in Los Angeles. The Court found that the Trump Administration exceeded its authority when it placed the conditions on the grant.
"The Court’s action is a win for public safety in Los Angeles, and once again confirms that our nation’s system of checks and balances works," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who sued the Trump Administration over imposing the civil immigration conditions on the federal public safety grant. (Read the preliminary injunction).
Each year, the United States Department of Justice publishes applications for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG), which provides federal funding for states and cities to support local law enforcement efforts. Since 1997, the City of Los Angeles has received over $1 million in JAG funding annually, including $1.8 million for the 2016 fiscal year. Los Angeles is eligible to receive $1.9 million for the fiscal year 2017, with $1.5 million allocated directly to the City and the remainder to Los Angeles County. Approximately $800,000 in Byrne JAG funding for 2016 was used to assist in funding the City’s Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) program which aims to reduce gang activity in Los Angeles, a portion of which is allotted to funding L.A. County’s anti-gang efforts.
On July 25, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that, pursuant to an Executive Order issued by President Trump, new immigration compliance requirements would be placed on all Byrne JAG grant applications, and jurisdictions that did not conform their policies to comply would be ineligible for funding.
Applications for Byrne JAG funding for the fiscal year 2017 were released on August 3, 2017 and specifically required the following conditions:
Compliance with a federal statute that bars restrictions on communications between state and local agencies and officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS);
granting permission for DHS personnel to access any correctional or detention facility in order to meet with a suspected alien, so as to inquire about his or her right to remain in the United States; and
providing at least 48 hours advance notice to DHS regarding the scheduled release date and time of an alien when requested.
In April of 2018, in an earlier action brought by the City Attorney (City of Los Angeles v. Sessions), the U.S. District Court found that the DOJ’s imposition of similar immigration-related considerations contained in a discretionary community policing (COPS) grant were unlawful. That decision imposed a nation-wide injunction precluding the federal government from including the considerations in the COPS grant.
The City filed its motion regarding the 2017 Byrne JAG conditions this July in response to an en banc decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to stay the nationwide effect of an injunction on immigration-related conditions for JAG funding, limiting the impact of that injunction to the City of Chicago.
In its motion, the City argued that precedent of the City of Los Angeles v. Sessions decision, which found the imposition of immigration-related considerations on the COPS grant to be unlawful, supported the City’s claim that immigration-related conditions imposed on the Byrne JAG grant were unlawful as well.
United States District Judge Manuel Real wrote in his order issuing the preliminary injunction, "To further show that the program is not to be administered according to the Attorney General’s discretion, Congress structured the Byrne JAG program as a formula grant.”
“As stated above, the authority granted to the Attorney General with the Byrne JAG statute regarding distribution of funds is extremely limited and leaves little room for discretion,” continued Real.