A judge ruled Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice cannot attempt to force local jurisdictions to comply with federal immigration policies to receive a public safety grant, which prompted Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer to declare a "complete victory" in his office's lawsuit over the funds.
Los Angeles filed the lawsuit last year, and the ruling from U.S. District Judge Manuel Real created a nationwide precedent that prevents the Justice Department from tying local immigration enforcement policies to the Community Oriented Policing Services grant.
"This is a complete victory, and this is yet another dagger in the heart of the administration's efforts to use federal funds as a weapon to make local jurisdictions complicit in its civil immigration enforcement policies," Feuer said at a news conference with Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 said jurisdictions that receive a COPS grant would need to commit to a number of new rules, including notifying immigration agents before releasing jail inmates, and giving federal agents access to their detention facilities and data files. Los Angeles had previously received COPS funds in 2012 and 2016, but was not awarded the grant in 2017.
The COPS grant, which in 2016 totaled $3.125 million for Los Angeles, in the past has been used to help expand the "Summer Night Lights" and "Fall Friday Nights'' gang-reduction programs.
Real ruled against the Trump administration on a number of points, including that it did not have the authority to attach the new conditions to the grant because it was created by Congress. He also ruled that it was improper for the administration to try to require local jurisdictions to partner with the federal government on immigration enforcement.
"Today the court said loud and clear what we have said loud and clear. Quit politicizing public safety," Garcetti said.
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Sessions has defended the new policies as necessary to help fight illegal immigration.
"So-called 'sanctuary' policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes," Sessions said when he announced the guidelines. "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."
The Los Angeles Police Department since 1979 has had a policy of restricting its enforcement of federal immigration laws, which has put it in conflict with President Donald Trump as he has looked for various ways into get local jurisdictions to be more cooperative on the laws, including by withholding the federal grants.
"We won't be bullied and we can't be bought," Beck said. "You cannot force us to go against our philosophies, to go against our principles, by withholding money."