Connecticut Joins Lawsuit to Protect State, Municipalities from Unlawful Restrictions on Federal Public Safety Grants
Six states file suit to block Trump Administration's new conditions on Byrne JAG law enforcement grants
Connecticut has joined a coalition of states in filing a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions challenging efforts to put unlawful and unconstitutional immigration-related conditions on federal law enforcement grants, Attorney General George Jepsen and Governor Dannel P. Malloy said today.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, six state attorneys general argue that the Trump Administration's conditions on the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program – known as Byrne JAG grants – interfere with the right of states and localities to set their own law enforcement policies, and that the Justice Department lacks authority to impose the conditions on the states.
"These grants support vital local law enforcement initiatives, and were designed to give states access to funds to support a broad variety of public safety needs," said Attorney General Jepsen. "The Department of Justice has no authority to impose conditions on these grants, and no basis on which to use these grants to impose its will on state and municipal law enforcement when it comes to the Trump Administration's distasteful and damaging immigration policies."
"President Trump and Attorney General Sessions are assuming power they don’t have and literally putting lives at risk," Governor Malloy said. "Connecticut has taken a leadership role in standing up to this president’s repugnant immigration policies, including the cruel and heartless 'zero-tolerance' family separation order. Today our state is once again at the forefront in fighting back against yet another unlawful, unconstitutional, and unintelligible Trump administration directive."
The Byrne JAG program provides grants to states and localities according to a mandatory statutory formula. Congress designed Byrne JAG to give states and localities a reliable source of law enforcement funding, while also giving them maximum flexibility to decide how to use the funds in accordance with state and local law-enforcement policy.
Connecticut could lose $1,711,049 if it does not agree to comply with the unlawful conditions. Connecticut has historically passed much of its Byrne JAG grant funding to state agencies and local jurisdictions to assist in their law enforcement and criminal justice programs, including support of the Statewide Narcotic Task Force and for Connecticut's opioid intervention project for local police departments.
In July 2017, the DOJ announced that it was imposing new immigration-related conditions on recipients of Byrne JAG funding and threatened to withhold funds from jurisdictions that did not comply with these conditions. The conditions – which were issued with little guidance – included requirements that grant recipients provide the federal Department of Homeland Security with advance notice of an immigrant's scheduled release from a correctional facility; that recipients grant federal agents access to correctional facilities to question immigrants; and that recipients report on and certify state and local compliance with DOJ's new and expansive interpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1373 – a federal information-sharing law.
Federal law permits states and localities to limit their voluntary involvement with enforcing federal immigration policy, and many have done so because they have concluded that fostering a relationship of trust between their law enforcement officials and their immigrant communities will promote public safety.
In today's lawsuit, the states argue that the DOJ lacks statutory authority to impose the conditions under both the Byrne JAG statutes and U.S. Code, and that imposition of the conditions was arbitrary and capricious. The states further argue that the imposition of immigration-related conditions is unconstitutional, violating the principle of separation of powers and the Tenth Amendment by interfering with states' abilities to set their own law enforcement policies and by commandeering state resources.
Today's lawsuit was led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and also includes the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington, in addition to Connecticut.
Assistant Attorneys General Michael Skold and Mark Kohler, head of the Special Litigation Department, are assisting the Attorney General with this matter.
Please click here to view today's complaint.
Jaclyn M. Severance