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Ninth Circuit Upholds Preliminary Injunction Stopping Trump Administration From Preventing Certain Federal Funding of “Sanctuary Cities”

Ninth Circuit Upholds Funding Sanctuary Cities

Written by: Taher Kameli, Esq.

An often overlooked disagreement in current U.S. immigration policy is between the Trump administration and certain so-called “sanctuary cities” – generally cities that have laws, regulations, policies, or other practices that obstruct Federal immigration enforcement.  The Trump administration has sought to restrict certain Federal funding of “sanctuary cities”. However, on October 31, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction stopping the Trump administration from preventing certain Federal funding of “sanctuary cities”.

Specifically, in 2017, as a requirement of receiving a Federal police grant (under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which had been authorized by Congress), the Trump administration added two conditions.  First, recipients of the grant were now required to notify immigration authorities before releasing immigrants from jail (the “notice condition”). Second, recipients of the grant were now required to give Federal agents access to correctional facilities to meet with immigrants who might be in the country without authorization (the “access condition”).  The City of Los Angeles objected to these two conditions and filed a lawsuit, arguing that cooperating with immigration authorities and Federal agents would discourage immigrants from helping police in fighting crime. In September, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Trump administration from imposing the two conditions on the funding of the Federal police grant. 

The Ninth Circuit, in the case of City of Los Angeles v. Barr, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 32576 (9th Cir. 2019), upheld the preliminary injunction, stating, “In light of our interpretation of ‘special conditions’ and ‘priority purposes,’ it is clear that [Section] 10102(a)(6) does not authorize DOJ to require all recipients of Byrne JAG funding to comply with the notice and access conditions. . . . First, the notice and access conditions are not ‘special conditions’ because they are not conditions triggered by specific characteristics not addressed by established conditions . . . Second, priority purposes must be chosen from among the various possible purposes of a Byrne JAG award as set out in [Section] 10152(a).  The notice and access conditions are not included as purposes of the Byrne JAG award, nor are they purposes of either of its predecessor grant statutes. Because the notice and access conditions meet neither of these definitions, DOJ lacked statutory authority to impose them under [Section] 10102(a)(6). . . . According to DOJ, the notice condition is authorized by [Section] 10153(a)(4), which requires a recipient to report certain programmatic information, and the access condition is authorized by [Section] 10153(a)(5)(C), which requires a recipient to coordinate with an ‘affected agenc[y].’ We disagree. . . . Because DHS requests for notice of the release of a detained alien do not relate to a program funded by Byrne JAG, the notice condition does not require ‘programmatic’ information under [Section] 10153(a)(4). . . . [Section 10153(a)(5)(C)] does not support DOJ’s interpretation that a recipient must coordinate with DHS agents who are not part of a funded program.  Nor does the statutory language . . . impose an ongoing obligation on the applicant to coordinate with DHS agents throughout the life of the grant, as required under the access condition. . . . Therefore, the access condition is not a proper exercise of the Attorney General’s authority under [Section] 10153(a)(5)(C). . . . Because none of DOJ’s proferred bases for statutory authority gives the Attorney General or the Assistant AG the power to impose the notice and access conditions, the conditions are ultra vires. . . . We affirm the district court”.

The Ninth Circuit opinion was written by Judge Sandra S. Ikuta (an appointee of President George W. Bush), and joined in by Judge Jay S. Bybee (also an appointee of President George W. Bush).  Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (an appointee of President Bill Clinton) wrote a concurring opinion, stating, “I concur with the majority to the extent it holds that the challenged immigration conditions were not authorized by Congress, and are thus unlawful”.

The Ninth Circuit decision follows decisions in 2 other U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals (in the Third Circuit, City of Philadelphia v. Attorney General of the United States, 916 F. 3d 276 (3d Cir. 2019), and in the Seventh Circuit, City of Chicago v. Sessions, 888 F. 3d 272 (7th Cir. 2018) (vacated in part on other grounds, 2018 WL 4268817 (7th Cir. 2018)) that also opposed the Trump administration’s efforts to impose conditions on Federal funding of “sanctuary cities”.

The City of Los Angeles case, as well as the City of Philadelphia and City of Chicago cases, shows how litigation can prevent the implementation of adverse policies from the Trump administration.  Whether the issue is Federal funding of a “sanctuary city” or any other immigration issue, to succeed in litigation, immigrants need to retain qualified immigration litigation counsel, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has had years of experience and success in representing immigration clients.  If you need assistance with any immigration issue, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at taher@kameli.com or 312-233-1000, for legal help.