California is poised to sue the Trump administration over the president’s latest attempt to punish jurisdictions tagged by the Justice Department as “sanctuary cities” that harbor undocumented immigrants, according to two sources close to the case.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — in conjunction with other California city and county attorneys — is considering charging the Justice Department with violating the Constitution by threatening to take crime-fighting funds away from cities and states that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration agents, according to those sources.
“The cities and states affected by these provisions have strong arguments to make in court that these conditions are illegal,” said a former Justice Department official familiar with California officials’ thinking. “If Congress wanted these requirements to be part of the grant funding decision, they would have written it into the law.”
California’s concern stems from an announcement last month by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who warned that jurisdictions that do not assist federal immigration agents seeking to deport undocumented immigrants would no longer get funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.
California was allocated nearly $18 million under that program in Fiscal 2017. To get future grants, municipalities will have to allow federal immigration agents access to detention facilities, and provide 48-hours notice before they release inmates who are wanted by federal authorities on suspicion of being in the country illegally.
Those familiar with Becerra’s thinking say he’d argue that Congress, not the executive branch, has power to set conditions on the grant money.
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