A federal appeals court just gave President Donald Trump a big victory in his war with sanctuary cities.
The Trump administration can withhold federal funding from localities and states that refuse to cooperate with immigration officers, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, according to The Hill. However, the New York-based court’s decision clashes with three other appeals courts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Court hands Trump a victory
Under so-called “sanctuary” policy, localities and states have refused to share information about illegal migrants in custody or notify federal immigration agencies before releasing them. For its part, the Trump administration has said that such policies make the country less safe.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in 2017, according to the Associated Press.
New York City and seven states — New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, Massachusetts, and Virginia — filed a lawsuit that year after the Department of Justice (DOJ), then led by Sessions, decided to block states and localities that identify as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants from receiving law enforcement grants, The Hill reported. But a three-person panel on the 2nd Circuit decided unanimously on Wednesday that the attorney general does have the authority to make following federal immigration policy a stipulation for those grants.
The court overturned a lower court ruling commanding the Trump administration to release the money in the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which provides $250 million for law enforcement efforts, the AP reported.
“While mindful of the respect owed to our sister circuits, we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue,” the 2nd Circuit said in a decision written by Judge Reena Raggi, according to the AP. The DOJ has acknowledged, however, that the impact of the ruling might be diluted by the three other appeals courts’ decisions.
Making America safe again
The ruling from the 2nd Circuit — which Trump flipped to conservative control last year — was a rare reprieve for the president and a victory for common sense and the rule of law. Trump has struggled to implement his immigration agenda, thanks in part to liberal judges issuing nationwide, unilateral injunctions against a number of his policies.
Ironically, the prospect that immigration law might actually be enforced has turned some blue states into advocates for states’ rights — a cause more commonly identified with conservatives. According to The Hill, the states filing suit argued that the DOJ’s policy was forcing them to either “diminish our sovereign ability to set our own law enforcement priorities and protect our communities, or forfeit Byrne JAG funding, thus undermining the vital programs that such funding supports.”
But the appeals court noted that the Supreme Court has recognized the federal government’s “broad” power to set immigration policy.
“Today’s decision rightfully recognizes the lawful authority of the Attorney General to ensure that Department of Justice grant recipients are not at the same time thwarting federal law enforcement priorities,” a DOJ spokesman said in a statement after the ruling, according to Fox News. The spokesman added:
The grant conditions here require states and cities that receive DOJ grants to share information about criminals in custody. The federal government uses this information to enforce national immigration laws — policies supported by successive Democrat and Republican administrations.
Trump’s war with sanctuary cities
In another front of Trump’s war with sanctuary cities, the Trump administration recently blocked New York state residents from the Trusted Travelers program — which expedites re-entry into the country, according to the AP — after the state gave driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants and moved to block immigration agents from accessing motor vehicle records. The Supreme Court also recently allowed the Trump administration’s public charge rule to take effect, blocking green card applicants who are likely to require public assistance, Fox reported.
Of course, it’s great news that the government can now crack down on localities that refuse to comply with immigration laws, but why did it take a federal court ruling to reach such an obvious conclusion? Either you have the rule of law or you don’t.