In Win For L.A., Federal Court Rules Administration Violated Separation of Powers In Imposing Civil Immigration Conditions Never Authorized By Congress
LOS ANGELES – Hours after President Trump triggered a constitutional confrontation with Congress over separation of powers by declaring a state of emergency, a federal court issued a nationwide injunction ruling the Administration had overstepped its bounds by imposing civil immigration conditions on public safety grants that would fight gang violence in Los Angeles.
The sweeping order by Federal District Judge Manuel Real came in response to litigation Feuer filed against the Trump administration after it imposed unconstitutional and unrelated conditions on the City in order to receive FY 2018 Federal Byrne JAG funding for vital anti-gang programs. The conditions would have forced the City to participate in federal immigration enforcement activities.
"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," said Feuer. "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."
Real wrote in his decision, "[T]he dispositive question before this Court is whether Congress has ‘unmistakably’ authorized the Attorney General to impose the challenged Conditions…[the Administration’s] imposition of the Notice and Access Condition is ultra vires as a matter of law and a violation of separation of powers."
Each year, the United States Department of Justice publishes applications for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), federal funding for states and cities to support local law enforcement efforts. Since 1997, with the exception of 2017 (which is currently the subject of a pending case), the City of Los Angeles has received over $1 million in 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 the City’s Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) program which aims to reduce gang activity and violence in Los Angeles.
LAPD has also sought and qualified for funding from the DOJ’s Juvenile Gang Prevention Grant Funds in order to support and create a framework and strategic plan to combat local juvenile gang crime and violence that specifically involves the MS-13 gang. Funding from the grant would support LAPD efforts to reduce gun and gang violence among youth and increase safety among communities affected by MS-13. The grant is a competitive grant and is being awarded for the first time.
Applications for current Byrne JAG funding for the fiscal year 2018 and the Juvenile Gang Prevention Grant contain conditions identical to conditions imposed on the 2017 Byrne JAG grants that were previously enjoined by the courts. The 2018 grants specifically require the following conditions: 1) Compliance with federal statutes that bar restrictions on communications between state and local agencies and officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); 2) applicants must permit personnel of the DHS access to any correctional or detention facility in order to meet with a suspected alien so as to inquire to his/her right to remain in the United States; and 3) provide at least 48 hours advance notice to DHS regarding scheduled the release date and time of a detainee when requested.
The Court’s order bars the Administration from imposing these illegal civil immigration conditions on both the Byrne and Juvenile Gang Prevention Grants.
In April of 2018, a U.S. district court also ruled for Los Angeles in City of Los Angeles vs. Sessions. There the Court ruled that the DOJ’s imposition of immigration-related terms on a discretionary community policing (COPS) grant was unlawful. That decision imposed a nationwide injunction against the imposition of immigration-related terms for COPS grants.
The law firm of Covington-Burlington assisted the City Attorney’s Office in this case.