Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Tuesday he has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice to block what he calls an unconstitutional effort to withhold crime-fighting grant funds from cities that fail to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
"We're suing to block the Trump Administration from unconstitutionally imposing its will on our city," Feuer said. "The administration would put L.A. to the untenable choice of risking a key public safety grant for making LAPD an arm of federal civil immigration policy.
"The administration's action is as ironic as it is unlawful, since the funds at stake support a model L.A. program targeting violent gang-related crime," he said.
President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have repeatedly lashed out at so-called "sanctuary cities," accusing them of harboring criminals who are living in the country illegally.
Sessions said in March that jurisdictions seeking DOJ grants would have to demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities.
"The American people know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe," Sessions said.
The Los Angeles Police Department had adhered to Special Order 40 since 1979. The order prohibits officers from initiating any police activity for the sole purpose of identifying someone's immigration status. It also prevents city employees from assisting any federal agency when the primary purpose is federal civil immigration enforcement.
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City officials said the policy is critical to build trust and encourage cooperation between residents and law enforcement. Feuer said the lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, says federal efforts to restrict cities' access to Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants are unconstitutional. Since 1997, Los Angeles has received more than $1 million in JAG funding, including $1.8 million in the 2016 fiscal year.