In a major move to enforce federal immigration laws, the Department of Justice has begun distributing $200 million in grants to law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.
But none will go to states that have adopted sanctuary policies.
The Justice Department announced the ban last year, but Chicago sued, saying that even though it has banned enforcement of immigration laws, it should still get federal funding.
A federal District Court judge ruled in favor of the city and blocked the Justice Department from applying the sanctuary criterion to its grant policy.
Now, a federal appeals court has narrowed the Chicago decision, saying the local District Court’s ban on federal funding using sanctuary policies could not be enforced nationwide.
As a result, the Justice Department is now free to distribute the much-sought-after funding only to states that do not have sanctuary policies.
The federal money is distributed under the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants program and is used by local police departments for equipment, training, personnel or other pressing needs.
The sanctuary policy in question involves a refusal by local officials to notify federal immigration agents when an illegal immigrant who is serving time in a state or local prison for a felony is released from custody so they can pick up up and deport him.
Many sanctuary laws — California’s, for example — make it a state crime to oblige federal immigration officials when they request cooperation and notification.
FightSanctuaryState.com, a group based in California, is seeking to ban the state from enforcing sanctuary laws.
It is headed by families of people victimized by crimes committed by illegal immigrants after their release from custody.
The movement is collecting signatures to put the issue to state voters and needs financial and other help.
Cutting off funding to sanctuary cities and states could be an important weapon in President Donald Trump’s arsenal against localities that try to defy federal immigration laws.
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