New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is the lead attorney on an Amicus Brief filed January 31, 2018 filed by 16 Attorneys General[i] in The City of Chicago v Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States.[ii] The case, brought in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, seeks to prevent the Attorney General from withholding federal funds from so called “Sanctuary Cities”.
Since 1968 the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant[iii] and its predecessors, have provided state and local governments federal funds for criminal enforcement tailored to local needs. In 2017, the program allocated over $175,000,000 to various state and local governments. New York was allocated just under $9,000,000, but has not received its grant.[iv]
In July 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would withhold Byrne-JAG grants to cities and states that did not cooperate with federal immigration agencies. The US Attorney General wants all state and local law enforcement to give federal immigration access to detention facilities and notify federal immigration before they release an undocumented immigrant. Sanctuary cities argue that they should not be used as federal law enforcement. They want to reduce the fear of deportation and family break ups, so that people will be more willing to take part in society, report crimes, use social services and enroll children in school.
The City of Chicago brought this action against the US Attorney General seeking an injunction preventing the DOJ from enforcing its new conditions. They argue that the grants are mandatory and the DOJ is not authorized to impose these restrictions. The Amicus Brief also argues that the DOJ has no authority to change the way the grants are allocated. They argue, 1) that the Byrne-JAG statute creates a mandatory formula grant that can only be changed by Congress, 2) that the conditions are not authorized by 34 USC 10153(a)(5)(D) and 3) that the conditions are inconsistent with 34 USC 10228(a).
So far the court has granted a partial preliminary injunction on the notice and access conditions but not the compliance condition. The appeals court denied a stay of the preliminary injunction pending appeal. We await a decision from the appeals court.
[i] The 16 states are New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, And Washington, and The District Of Columbia
[iii] The program is named for New York City police officer Edward Byrne who was killed in the line of duty in 1988 while protecting an immigrant witness who agreed to testify against drug dealers.