Attorney General James Secures the Restoration of Over $30 Million in Public Safety Grants

Trump Administration Withheld Critical Byrne JAG Law Enforcement
Grants to New York and Other States and Localities

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the restoration of more than $30 million in federal funds for public safety that New York receives under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (Byrne JAG) and the conclusion of legal challenges against the Trump administration’s Department of Justice for denying these funds.

“Public safety and our ability to protect our communities should never be jeopardized by politics,” said Attorney General James. “For decades, the Byrne JAG grant program has been a critical source of federal funding for our efforts to protect New Yorkers, which is why the former president’s attempts to hold these grant funds hostage was so unconscionable. We’re pleased that the Biden administration has removed the immigration-related conditions, and that New York can now access the more than $30 million of grant funds that have stood in limbo over the last four years. This action will ensure that states and localities don’t have to choose between protecting their autonomy and protecting public safety.”

In July 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was imposing new immigration-related conditions on recipients of Byrne JAG funding, and threatened to withhold funds from jurisdictions that did not comply with these conditions. In June 2018, the DOJ sent notice to New York state that it had to participate in enforcing the federal government’s civil immigration policies in order to receive Byrne JAG funding. The conditions would require state and local governments to provide the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with advance notice of an immigrant’s scheduled release date from a correctional facility; grant federal agents access to correctional facilities to question immigrants; and report on and certify state and local compliance with the DOJ’s new and expansive interpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1373 — a federal information-sharing law.

In July 2018, the Office of the Attorney General filed a suit against the Trump administration’s DOJ, challenging the administration’s efforts to deny these grants. In November 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of New York and the other plaintiff states in the suit, concluding that the DOJ lacked the authority to condition these vital public safety funds on compliance with the new immigration-related conditions. The district court also permanently enjoined the DOJ from imposing the new conditions on the Byrne JAG awards, and directed the federal agency to restore the nearly $25 million in Fiscal Year 2017 Byrne JAG grants that New York and other plaintiff states were entitled to by federal statute, without the unlawful immigration-related conditions. After appellate proceedings going up to the U.S. Supreme Court, the DOJ agreed to remove the challenged conditions, allowing New York and the other plaintiffs in the suit to access their withheld grant funds.

The more than $30 million that New York will now have full access to accounts for the total amount of Byrne JAG grants to the state that were in dispute in Fiscal Years 2017-2020.

The other plaintiffs represented in the suit include the attorneys general of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

This matter was handled by Assistant Solicitors General Linda Fang and Ari Savitzky, Special Counsel Eric R. Haren, Deputy Solicitor General Anisha S. Dasgupta, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood, along with Assistant Attorneys General Nancy M. Trasande and Conor Duffy of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and the Division for Social Justice is under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.