SAN FRANCISCO November 20, 2017 – On Wednesday, the Department of Justice threatened to withhold federal law enforcement grant money from 29 jurisdictions, ostensibly because their information-sharing policies do not comply with a federal law that prohibits states and localities from adopting policies that restrict the sharing of “information regarding…citizenship or immigration status.” Twelve of the 29 jurisdictions are in California.
“These baseless threats are the latest in the Trump Administration’s campaign to coerce local police and sheriffs into serving as de facto immigration agents,” said Julia Harumi Mass, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of California. “Withholding federal money from cities and counties based on these reasonable local policies is both unlawful and unwise. Courts have already upheld the legality of local policies, like the ones cited in California, that limit the collection and sharing of information with federal immigration authorities.”
Since the Administration’s January 25, 2017 Executive Order claimed it would seek to withhold federal funding from so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions based on the Administration’s overbroad interpretation of federal law, states and localities across the country have defended their policies by seeking relief against federal action in court.
In April, a federal judge in San Francisco issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the Executive Order. In September, a federal judge in Chicago issued a nationwide injunction against the Administration’s new standards for law enforcement grants. On the same day that the 29 jurisdictions were delivered the letters, a federal judge in Philadelphia issued the latest ruling on the issue, finding that the Department of Justice cannot withhold federal grant money based on the city’s refusal to provide immigration agents access to persons in its jail or information about their release dates. Currently pending before the district court in San Francisco is the State of California’s motion to prohibit the federal government from withholding law enforcement grant funding based on the Administration’s overbroad interpretation of federal law.
The ACLU of California has long advocated for limiting local police and sheriff participation in the federal deportation system to protect public safety and civil rights, including most recently championing the passage of the California Values Act (SB54).
“We stand by the local jurisdictions who are the current targets of the Trump administration’s scare tactics and offer our support for their ongoing efforts to respect the rights and protect the safety of our local communities,” affirmed Mass.