A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the Trump administration on a case asking whether or not it could deny law enforcement funds to sanctuary jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision previously made by a district court judge.
In July 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a move to deny awards of Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs to jurisdictions that try to shield illegal immigrants from federal enforcement efforts.
"So-called 'sanctuary' policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement at the time. "These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law."
Sessions explained that grants would only go "to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities."
As with most major Trump administration actions, the policy was subsequently taken to federal court. The plaintiffs in the case decided Wednesday were the states of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island, along with New York City.
The Second Circuit determined that the attorney general was able to place the conditions on the funds under the "considerable authority" given to him by Congress under relevant federal law.
The ruling offered "several reasons" Congress would give such authority to the attorney general on grant conditions:
First, while Congress itself requires compliance certification as to "all other applicable Federal laws," the number of laws that could apply to States and localities seeking Byrne funding is large, variable, and not easily identified in a single statutory provision. Second, the Attorney General, as the nation's chief federal law enforcement official, is particularly suited to identify the federal laws applicable to persons and circumstances.Third, having the Attorney General identify specific laws requiring [statutory] certification serves the salutary purpose of affording applicants clear notice of what is expected of them as Byrne grant recipients.
The court also noted that its opinion differs from the opinions handed down by other federal courts, but that "we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue."
In a statement given to Blaze Media, a DOJ spokesman praised Wednesday's decision, but also cautioned that some jurisdictions might use other courts' decisions to get around it.
"Today's decision rightfully recognizes the lawful authority of the Attorney General to ensure that Department of Justice grant recipients are not at the same time thwarting federal law enforcement priorities," the spokesman said. "While today's ruling is a major victory for Americans, its full scope will not be realized until the practices of granting nationwide injunctions and associational injunctions are stopped, as certain cities that are parties to this judgment may nonetheless use rulings from other courts to evade these lawful conditions."