Court rules USDOJ conditions on 2018 law enforcement grants are unconstitutional after earlier invalidating similar conditions on 2017 grants
SAN FRANCISCO (March 4, 2019) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera released the following statement in response to today’s ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that invalidated grant conditions that the Trump administration tried to use to deny law enforcement funding to sanctuary jurisdictions like San Francisco:
“Justice has prevailed once again. These grant conditions were yet another example of presidential overreach, and the court rightly struck them down. This is a victory for the rule of law and common-sense law enforcement. Congress has the power of the purse. The president does not. I suggest this administration stop trying to villainize immigrants and instead read the Constitution.
These grant conditions were the latest misguided attempt to coerce local governments into abandoning policies that make our cities safer. Let me be very clear: There is no law requiring state or local governments to participate in immigration enforcement. Immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government alone. Federal officials can do their job in San Francisco and anywhere else in the country. San Francisco is not stopping them. San Francisco is not impeding them. But our police, firefighters and nurses are not going to be commandeered and turned into the Trump administration’s deportation force. Communities are safer when residents aren’t afraid to take their children to the doctor, call the fire department in an emergency, or go to the police if they’ve been the victim of a crime. We prioritize our limited law enforcement resources to fight actual crime, not break up hardworking families.”
About the Ruling
Today’s ruling from Judge William H. Orrick found that the conditions the Trump administration was trying to place on certain law enforcement grants for fiscal year 2018 are unconstitutional. It comes after the court had previously ruled that similar conditions on fiscal 2017 grants were unconstitutional. Both sets of grant conditions came after the court invalidated an executive order by the president that sought to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities.
The court granted an injunction prohibiting the grant conditions from being applied in San Francisco and California. He also noted that a nationwide injunction was justified in this case, but stayed its application in places outside of the California pending review by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
This is the third case where Herrera has defeated the Trump administration’s attempts to deny funding to local governments with sanctuary policies.
San Francisco on Jan. 31, 2017 became the first entity to sue President Donald Trump over his executive order to strip federal funding from “sanctuary jurisdictions.” Santa Clara County and other local governments soon followed. San Francisco had about $2 billion at stake. That included $1.2 billion in annual operating funds, or about 13 percent of San Francisco’s budget; and another $800 million in multi-year federal grants that are not part of the annual operating budget and used primarily for large infrastructure projects, like bridges, roads and public transportation.
Orrick on Nov. 20, 2017 found that President Trump’s executive order violated the Constitution and issued an order prohibiting the federal government from enforcing it. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision on Aug. 1, 2018.
The second lawsuit, filed Aug. 11, 2017, opposed separate grant conditions that then-U.S. Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III sought to place on a group of 2017 U.S. Department of Justice grants for local law enforcement. Those conditions came after the court preliminarily enjoined enforcement of the executive order in April 2018. Orrick on Oct. 5, 2018 found that those grant conditions were unconstitutional, that San Francisco is in compliance with the federal law the administration was relying on (section 1373), and that section 1373 is itself unconstitutional.
The third case, which today’s decision covers, involved revised grant conditions the Department of Justice had sought to impose of 2018 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants.
Impact on San Francisco
San Francisco faced the prospect of losing more than $1.4 million in Byrne JAG funds for fiscal 2017. It faced losing a similar amount for fiscal 2018. After prevailing in court, San Francisco received its direct grant allocation for fiscal 2017 Byrne JAG funding earlier this year. The federal government has not disbursed San Francisco’s 2018 funds yet. San Francisco uses these funds for a variety of important law enforcement purposes, including programs designed to reduce recidivism, provide alternative forms of prosecution and enable treatment for underserved populations. Some examples include:
- Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – an innovative approach to improve public safety by connecting appropriate low-level drug offenders with services
- Drug Court Prosecution – connects defendants who have substance abuse problems to treatment in the community to reduce recidivism and find appropriate legal outcomes
- Targeted Drug Treatment for Underserved Populations – a treatment intervention conducted by the Sheriff’s Department for individuals in custody
About Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants
These grants, also known as Byrne JAG funds, were created by Congress. Congress set the structure, criteria and requirements of the Byrne JAG program. These grants have been awarded annually for more than three decades. The U.S. Department of Justice describes them as “the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions.”
The grants must be used for one of eight approved program purposes, including: law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, crime victim and witness initiatives, and mental health programs. Federal immigration enforcement is not an approved program purpose.
The cases are: City and County of San Francisco v. Jefferson B. Sessions III, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. 3:17-cv-04642, filed Aug. 11, 2017, and City and County of San Francisco v. Jefferson B. Sessions III, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. 3:18-cv-05146-JCS, filed Aug. 22, 2018. Additional documentation is available on the City Attorney’s website at: sfcityattorney.org