San Francisco takes DOJ to court in showdown over federal grants

San Francisco takes DOJ to court in showdown over federal grants
San Francisco, a “sanctuary city,” stands to lose $1.5 million in police-related federal funding, but now the city and California are suing the US Department of Justice over this rule. Some $500,000 of the funding is distributed by the federal government.

On Monday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera slapped the US Department of Justice with the lawsuit.

Sanctuary cities, a generic term for cities not taking up federal immigration enforcement responsibilities, have been threatened with funding freezes by the DOJ. The Justice Department has warned that the federal government will withhold grant money for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program, which subsidizes police equipment and vehicles as well as community and social programs.

The DOJ specifically requests sanctuary cities allow federal immigration officials to enter their jails in order to pursue the interrogation of suspects. Cities must also provide federal officials with 48 hours notice in the case of an impending release of a prisoner who is being sought for questioning.

City Attorney Herrera and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra also announced Monday that the state would file a lawsuit over the same issue.

This makes California the first state to sue the federal government over the grants.

The Byrne grant, cited in the lawsuit, guarantees money to cities that want to buy new police vehicles or fund public safety efforts, which include jail diversion initiatives, social work services and adult alternative courts.

“We abide by federal law, we respect the Constitution. The federal government should do the same,” Becerra said at a Monday morning news conference at San Francisco City Hall, the Chronicle reported.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions disagrees with this sentiment on sanctuary cities and announced last month that the DOJ will withhold the Byrne grant from sanctuary cities unless they cooperate closely with federal immigration officers.

“So-called sanctuary policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said in late July, according to a DOJ press release. “These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law.”

READ MORE: California judge rules against Trump’s ban on sanctuary cities

However, Herrera called the Trump administration’s attempts to make sanctuary cities comply with federal officials “an end-run around the Constitution.”

He continued, “It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,”according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The Department of Justice,” he stated, “does not have authority from Congress to impose these conditions (on the grants), and for good reason.”

The city of Chicago filed a similar suit against the DOJ for threatening to withhold the Byrne grant money last week in US District Court.