After 16 Months, Sanctuary Cities Are Getting Their Federal Grants Despite Threats, But Will They Have to Pay Back Millions for Non-Compliance?

WASHINGTON – A vast majority of the cities and townships that applied for federal law enforcement grants have received them, despite attempts from the Trump administration to withhold funding from sanctuary cities.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order in January 2017 to block federal funding from jurisdictions that harbor illegal immigrants and refuse to work with federal immigration authorities. The Department of Justice took the fight a step further in November 2017 when it targeted 29 specific cities, metro areas, counties and states, accusing them of violating federal law with their “sanctuary policies.”

In letters sent to the 29 different jurisdictions, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned they must comply with federal law or else risk losing millions of dollars in federal funds.

However, 16 months since those letters were issued, all but one of the jurisdictions has either received or been cleared to receive funds, the Justice Department confirmed to the Associated Press. Of the 29 localities, which include cities across the country such as Burlington, Vermont and Los Angeles, California, only the state of Oregon has not yet been cleared to receive federal grants from 2017.

The Trump administration’s failure to block federal law enforcement funding to sanctuary cities stems from a string of courtroom losses. Two California counties successfully filed a lawsuit in a district court against the administration over its threats to deny federal funds to sanctuary cities, with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the court’s opinion in August 2018. The U.S. Conference of Mayors also filed a lawsuit against the measure in 2018, and a federal court in September of that year temporarily blocked the Department of Justice from withholding funds from cities represented by the Conference of Mayors. The Justice Department is mulling whether to appeal some of the court decisions.


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“I continue to urge all jurisdictions under review to reconsider policies that place the safety of their communities and their residents at risk,” Sessions stated in January 2018. “Protecting criminal aliens from federal immigration authorities defies common sense and undermines the rule of law.”

Sanctuary policies across the U.S. have been met with real life consequences for law enforcement officials and the communities they serve.

A California sheriff’s deputy in February was shot at during a routine traffic stop by an illegal immigrant wanted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but was able to remain in the U.S. because local authorities refused to work with federal authorities. Body camera footage of the shootout went viral, and ICE officials pointed to the incident as an example of how sanctuary policies put communities in dangers.

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