ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG JOINS COALITION OF 15 AGS IN BRIEF TO PROTECT CRITICAL LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNDING FROM TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S UNCONSTITUTIONAL OVERREACH
Trump Administration Punishing ‘Sanctuary Cities’ By Cutting Funds for Byrne-JAG Grants to Combat Drug Trafficking
(Hartford, CT) -- Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 15 states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James in filing an amicus brief to protect states and localities from the Trump Administration's efforts to punish so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by putting immigration-related conditions on federal funding for law enforcement efforts. The administration has continuously attempted to punish these jurisdictions by putting these unlawful conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program (Byrne-JAG), a federal law enforcement grant allocated to States and localities.
"The federal government cannot force Connecticut police officers to serve as ICE's local deportation force. Local police departments have their hands more than full addressing serious public safety threats like the opioid epidemic, domestic violence and gun violence. The Trump Administration's actions are unlawful, make us all less safe, and must be stopped," said Attorney General William Tong.
The brief was filed in support of the State of California and the City of San Francisco in their lawsuits against the Trump Administration for the denial of Byrne-JAG grants and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin grants -- programs that provide vital assistance for local law enforcement efforts, including efforts to address the trafficking and sales of illicit drugs.
The Byrne-JAG program is a federal grant program that 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. The COPS Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin Task Force Programs were established by Congress in 2014 and 2015, to support state and local law enforcement efforts to curb the production of methamphetamine, and the trafficking and sale of methamphetamines, heroin, and opioids.
In July 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was imposing new immigration-related conditions on Byrne-JAG funding and COPS Anti-Methamphetamine and Anti-Heroin funding, including the requirement to certify compliance with a federal law that prohibits state and local governments from restricting when and how their employees may communicate with federal immigration authorities about the citizenship or immigration status of any individual.
In July 2018, Connecticut joined the New York Attorney General’s Office and five other states in filing a similar lawsuit to challenge the same unconstitutional policies, arguing that the Trump Administration’s new immigration-related conditions on Byrne-JAG grants interfere with the right of the States and localities to set their own law enforcement policies, and that DOJ lacks the authority to impose these new conditions. In November 2018, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of Connecticut, New York and the other plaintiff States in the suit, concluding that DOJ lacks the authority to require the plaintiff states to comply with the unrelated immigration 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 Connecticut, New York and other plaintiff States were entitled to by federal statute, without the unlawful immigration-related conditions. The Trump administration has appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and Connecticut, New York and the plaintiff states are vigorously defending the appeal.
Joining New York Attorney General Letitia James and Attorney General Tong in filing this brief were the Attorneys General of Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.