SACRAMENTO February 7, 2018 – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and its Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to compel them to produce information explaining why they imposed new, immigration-related conditions on law enforcement grants. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of California.
On September 8, 2017, Attorney General Becerra submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for information pertaining to changes to federal immigration enforcement practices and the administration of law enforcement grants under the Trump Administration. Five months later, the federal government has not provided the documents.
“As citizens of this country, we have the right to examine public documents of our government by submitting a FOIA request. That’s a hallmark and indispensable tenet of an open and transparent democracy. The federal government doesn’t get to choose which laws it will obey, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department should be in the business of enforcing, not violating, the law,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Federal authorities have a clear legal obligation to respond to our FOIA request, and California will stand its ground until we have answers.”
Under the Freedom of Information Act, OJP is required to provide responses and requested records. To ensure transparency, the federal government must also indicate the universe of documents they intend to produce in response to the request and cite any pertinent exemptions for documents being withheld. Attorney General Becerra’s September 18, 2017 FOIA request sought information regarding when and how the federal government determined to add immigration enforcement conditions and certification requirements to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program. Neither the federal Department of Justice nor OJP has provided the required response to Attorney General Becerra’s request.
The California Department of Justice has consistently pushed back on the federal government’s threats to commandeer resources away from state and local governments that seek to concentrate their law enforcement activities on public safety and not on federal immigration and deportation activities. It was July 25, 2017, when the Trump Administration added the immigration enforcement-related conditions to the state and local law enforcement Byrne JAG grants. On August 14, 2017, Attorney General Becerra responded with a lawsuit challenging these unconstitutional conditions that attempt to usurp California law enforcement officials’ discretion to determine how best to keep their communities safe, forcing them to engage in federal immigration enforcement. This August 14, 2017 lawsuit is separate and apart from the FOIA lawsu it filed today to compel U.S. DOJ disclosure of information.