ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG, MULTISTATE COALITION FILE BRIEF IN ONGOING LAWSUIT TO PROTECT STATE, MUNICIPALITIES FROM UNLAWFUL RESTRICTIONS ON PUBLIC SAFETY GRANTS
Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of six other Attorneys General in filing a brief today in their lawsuit to block the Trump administration’s efforts to punish so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by putting immigration-related conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (Byrne JAG), a federal law enforcement grant.
"The Trump Administration's efforts to defund and undermine local law enforcement will do nothing to fix our broken immigration system, and will make us all less safe. Connecticut will not be bullied and threatened into turning our police into agents of Trump's deportation force. The lower court ruled correctly when it found that the Trump Administration acted unlawfully, and we expect to prevail on the merits once again in this appeal," said Attorney General William Tong.
In July 2018, Connecticut joined a coalition of states in filing a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice and then-U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions seeking to block unlawful and unconstitutional immigration-related conditions on federal law enforcement grants
In November 2018, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of the plaintiff states in the suit, concluding that the DOJ lacks the authority to condition these vital public safety funds on compliance with the new immigration-related conditions. The District Court also permanently enjoined DOJ from imposing the new conditions on the Byrne JAG awards, and directed DOJ to restore the nearly $25 million in FY 2017 Byrne JAG grants that the plaintiff States were entitled to by federal statute, without the unlawful immigration-related conditions. The Trump administration appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The other plaintiffs represented in the suit led by New York Attorney General Letitia James include the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.
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.