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Federal Grant Funds Cannot Be Tied to Immigration Enforcement

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on May 07, 2018

A federal judge on April 2018 issued a nationwide ban against a new policy that showed favoritism for local police departments that work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on immigration enforcement. In 2017, Attorney General Jefferson Sessions made amendments regarding how scoring would be determined on applications for federal grant funds,with cities and counties being promised that they would receive additional points if they cooperated with the ICE in identifying undocumented identifying illegal aliens who have committed crimes. They were also required to notify federal authorities of suspected undocumented inmates, allow ICE agents to access jail facilities and records, and alert ICE 48 hours before an inmate targeted for deportation is released.

Several counties and cities reported being denied federal funding because they refused to let ICE agents into jails to get information about the immigration status of detainees.

New Policy Would Have Undermined Commitment to Public Safety

Immigration attorneys viewed the changes as a tactic employed by the Trump administration of manipulating the funds and turning law enforcement agencies into instruments of the President’s immigration policy- a move that reverses decisions to promote public safety.

The lawsuit filed highlighted that these inducements would negatively affect local communities since law enforcement officers would be forced to prioritize immigration enforcement over public safety or else lose federal grant funds. Consequently, community members would not have faith in the police and justice system officials and this would undermine cooperation and trust needed to get people to report crimes. This would make it harder for them to protect communities.

Immigration enforcement is the job of the federal government and Judge Manuel Real stated that by forcing local agents to work together with federal authorities, the new funding rules upset the constitutional balance of powers between federal and state law enforcement. This ruling applies nationwide and blocks the federal government from imposing conditions on grants and other funds meant for law enforcement.

Federal grant funds are used by cities and counties to hire additional police officers and buy police vehicles and other equipment. The approval process for the funds is based on a scoring system which ranks fiscal health, crime, and other factors. Law enforcement agencies may be awarded additional points, but the Department of Justice does not disclose their weight.