SAN FRANCISCO—The city of San Francisco and state of California are mounting a coordinated legal effort to fight restrictions the Trump administration has placed on giving federal law enforcement grants to so-called sanctuary cities.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera held a joint press conference at San Francisco City Hall Monday morning to announce a pair of federal lawsuits challenging special conditions the U.S. Department of Justice placed on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
The federal government in July announced the federal law enforcement grants would be restricted to states and municipalities that allow federal immigration authorities access to local detention facilities to question detainees and give the Department of Homeland Security 48 hours’ notice before releasing someone suspected of being in the country illegally. The city sued to block the new grant conditions Aug. 11, and the state followed suit Monday.
Becerra said the changes would put $28.3 million in law enforcement funding grants at risk statewide. Herrera said the city typically gets about $1.5 million annually from the funds—about $500,000 the city receives independently and about $1 million it receives indirectly through the state. The grants fund efforts directed at avoiding recidivism, outreach to at-risk youth and victims’ services, they said.
Becerra and Herrera both said that the administration’s move is an illegal attempt to get local law enforcement officials to provide resources for the federal government’s immigration enforcement efforts. “This is pure intimidation intended to force our law enforcement into changing the policies and practices that they have determined promote public safety,” Becerra said.
Herrera called the administrations move, which pushed changes through in its budget proposal without getting congressional sign off, an “end run around the Constitution.”
Becerra and Herrera are both becoming repeat courthouse opponents for Trump’s Justice Department. Herrera’s office sued in January to challenge Trump’s executive order targeting communities that decline to cooperate with federal immigration officials in aiding deportation.
In April, the city won a ruling from U.S. District Judge William Orrick III of the Northern District of California blocking the administration from enforcing its threat to withhold certain federal funds from sanctuary cities. Becerra led a nine-state coalition, joined by the District of Columbia, which filed an amicus brief backing San Francisco’s position in that case.
The state has also taken action on its own to challenge some of the president’s policies. Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia allowed another coalition of Democratic state attorneys general led by Becerra to intervene in a case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to defend rules limiting ozone pollution levels.
Still, at Monday’s joint press conference, Becerra sought to downplay any budding rivalry with the federal government. “I don’t see this as a fight against the federal government. We’re fighting to protect the Constitution,” Becerra said.
Added Herrera: “We’re fighting to protect the Constitution and the rule of law. The fact that it’s playing out in a state and a local lawsuit doesn’t mean we are trying to trump federal rights.”