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A.G. Schneiderman Leads New Brief To Protect New York Cities & Police Departments From Funding Cuts As Trump Administration Seeks To Punish “Sanctuary” Jurisdictions

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2018

Attorney General’s Press Office / 212-416-8060
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov
Twitter: @AGSchneiderman 

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN LEADS NEW BRIEF TO PROTECT NEW YORK CITIES & POLICE DEPARTMENTS FROM FUNDING CUTS AS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SEEKS TO PUNISH “SANCTUARY” JURISDICTIONS

16 AGs File Brief in City of Chicago v. Sessions, Opposing Trump Administration’s New Conditions on Byrne-JAG Law Enforcement Grants

DOJ Recently Sent Letters to 23 Jurisdictions – Including NYC and Albany – Threatening to Withdraw Their Bryne-JAG Funding

Byrne-JAG Grants Fund Vital Public Safety Initiatives – Including Millions for NY Efforts To Reduce Gun Violence and Combat the Opioid Epidemic

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman led a coalition of 16 Attorneys General in a new amicus brief to protect cities and police departments from federal funding cuts, supporting a challenge to the Trump administration’s efforts to punish so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by putting immigration-related conditions on federal law enforcement grants. In the amicus brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in City of Chicago v. Sessions, the Attorneys General argue that the Trump administration’s conditions on the grant interfere with states’ and localities’ right to set their own law enforcement policies and that the Department of Justice lacks the authority to impose these new conditions. 

“The Trump administration does not have the authority to unilaterally transform state and local police into federal immigration agents – and they cannot punish a locality simply because it won’t comply,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “In cities across New York, local law enforcement have proven that protecting public safety goes hand in hand with building trust with immigrant communities. Attorneys General will continue to fight back against the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies that threaten our communities and our safety.”

In Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16), New York and its localities received nearly $15 million in funds through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program. While FY17 Byrne-JAG funds are currently frozen due to the pending litigation, the proposed FY17 statewide allocation for New York and its localities was approximately $14.5 million. The Trump administration has targeted the City of New York for allegedly violating immigration-related grant conditions, putting the City’s funding at risk – despite the fact that the grant is named after NYPD Officer Edward Byrne, who was killed in the line of duty while protecting New York City communities.

In City of Chicago v. Sessions, Chicago challenged DOJ’s imposition of new immigration-related conditions on grants issued under the Byrne-JAG program. Last fall, a district court entered a nationwide preliminary injunction against DOJ’s enforcement of two of the new immigration-related conditions, holding that DOJ lacked authority to impose them. DOJ appealed that ruling to the Seventh Circuit, where Attorney General Schneiderman and a coalition of Attorneys General filed an amicus brief supporting Chicago. The Seventh Circuit has not yet ruled on DOJ’s appeal. The current brief, filed in the ongoing proceedings in the district court, supports Chicago’s opposition to DOJ’s motion to dismiss.

The amicus brief was filed by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia. 

Federal law permits states and localities to limit their voluntary involvement with enforcing federal immigration policy, and many have done so because they have concluded that fostering a relationship of trust between their law-enforcement officials and their immigrant communities will promote public safety.

In July 2017, 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. Specifically, DOJ sought to require states and localities to provide the Department of Homeland Security with advance notice of an immigrant’s scheduled release date from a correctional facility, to grant federal agents access to correctional facilities to question immigrants, and to report on and certify state and local compliance with DOJ’s new and expansive interpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1373—a federal information-sharing law. DOJ recently has sent a series of letters to 23 jurisdictions, including the cities of New York and Albany, stating that those cities may be violating DOJ's interpretation of § 1373.

As the Attorneys General argue, the new conditions, including the condition requiring applicants to certify and report on compliance with DOJ’s interpretation of § 1373, violate the law, the constitutional principle of separation of powers, and the federalism principles enshrined in the Byrne-JAG statute – by interfering with states’ and localities’ abilities to set their own law-enforcement policies and overstepping DOJ’s authority to impose the new conditions under the statute.

The U.S. Attorney General contends that DOJ may deny grants to States and localities that limit their voluntary involvement with enforcing federal immigration policy because those jurisdictions have concluded that fostering a relationship of trust between their law-enforcement officials and their immigrant communities will promote public safety. “The Byrne-JAG statute does not authorize the U.S. Attorney General’s position, which is also contrary to the federalism principles enshrined in the Byrne-JAG program.”

The Byrne-JAG program is a federal grant program that provides grants to states and localities according to a mandatory statutory formula. Congress designed Byrne-JAG to give states and localities a reliable source of law-enforcement funding, while also giving them maximum flexibility to decide how to use the funds in accordance with state and local law-enforcement policy.

The amici States have received law-enforcement grants under the Byrne-JAG program and its predecessor grants since 1968, and they have used those funds to support a broad array of critical-law enforcement programs tailored to local needs, including to support community-based policing, and reduce sexual assault, elder abuse, gun violence, recidivism, and drug addiction.  

For example, New York has used its Byrne-JAG funding to support a multi-county initiative to combat gun violence, to improve criminal records systems, enhance forensic laboratories, and support prosecution and defense services. New York plans to use its fiscal year 2017 grant money to combat the opioid epidemic. Without Byrne-JAG funding, states like New York may be forced to cut funding to these critical state and local programs.

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman released legal guidance to support local governments and law enforcement agencies in protecting vulnerable immigrant communities.