L.A. City Attorney Seeks Injunction Against Feds Over Justice Grants

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer. (Photo credit: Keyang Pang)

LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has filed a motion in Federal Court seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting President Trump’s Justice Department from imposing unconstitutional conditions on the City as a prerequisite to receiving Federal funding for a crucial anti-gang program. The motion was filed in a pre-existing case in which the Court already has enjoined similar considerations which the Administration attempted to impose on a separate DOJ law enforcement grant.

“We’re continuing to do everything in our power to stop the Trump administration from unconstitutionally tying federal civil immigration enforcement to the funding of L.A.’s anti-gang efforts,” said Feuer.  “LAPD decided decades ago that police officers should not engage in civil immigration enforcement, because all of us are safer when victims and witnesses of crime, irrespective of immigration status, contact police.  We won’t let the Trump Administration hold federal grant funding hostage to further its immigration policy prerogatives at the expense of protecting L.A.’s most vulnerable neighborhoods,” concluded Feuer.

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 allocated directly to the City and the remainder to Los Angeles County. Approximately $800,000 in Byrne JAG funding for 2016 has been used to assist in funding the City’s Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) program which aims to reduce gang activity in Los Angeles.

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 current Byrne JAG funding for the fiscal year 2017 were released on August 3, 2017 and specifically required the following conditions:  1) Compliance with a federal statute that bars restrictions on communications between state and local agencies and officials with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); 2) 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 3) 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, a U.S. District Court found in the case of City of Los Angeles vs. Sessions that the DOJ’s imposition of immigration-related considerations in a discretionary community policing (COPS) grant was unlawful. That decision imposed a nation-wide injunction on the imposition of immigration-related considerations for the COPS grant.

The City’s current motion was filed in response to a recent 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 argues that precedent from the recent City of Los Angeles vs. Sessions decision, which found the imposition of immigration-related considerations on the COPS grant to be unlawful, supports the City’s claim that immigration-related conditions imposed on the Byrne JAG grant are unlawful as well.