Baltimore, Maryland – Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today joined 15 Attorneys General in an amicus brief to protect Maryland’s cities and police department from federal funding cuts, supporting a challenge to the Trump administrations to punish so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by putting immigration-related conditions on federal law enforcement grants. The Attorneys General argue that these conditions interfere with states’ and localities’ right to set their own law enforcement polices and that the Department of Justice lacks the authority to impose these new conditions.
The Byrne-JAG program is a federal grant program that provides grants to states and localities according to a mandatory statutory formula. Congress designed Byrne-JAG to give states and localities a reliable source of law enforcement funding, while also giving them maximum flexibility to decide how to use the funds in accordance with state and local law enforcement policy.
The Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16), Maryland received $3.5 million through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) program. Maryland targeted use of Byrne-JAG to reduce illegal gun and possession, maximize use of the best available technology, assist crime victims and a variety of other crime prevention and intervention strategies.
Federal law permits states and localities to limit their voluntary involvement with enforcing immigration policy. In July 2017, DOJ announced that it was imposing new immigration-related conditions on recipients on Byrne-JAG funding and threatened to withhold funds from jurisdictions that did not comply with these conditions. Specifically, DOJ sought to require states and localities to provide the Department of Homeland Security with advance notice of an immigrant’s scheduled release date from a correctional facility and to grant federal agents access to correctional facilities to question immigrants.
In City of Chicago v. Sessions, Chicago challenged DOJ’s imposition of new immigration-related conditions on grants issued under the Byrne-JAG program. Last fall, a district court entered a nationwide preliminary injection against DOJ’s enforcement of two of the immigration-related conditions, holding the DOJ lacked authority to impose them. The case is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
As the Attorneys General argue, the new conditions violate the law, the constitutional principle of separation of powers and the federalism principles enshrined in the Byrne-JAG statue – interfering with state’s and localities’ abilities to set their own law enforcement policies and overstepping DOJ’s authority to impose the new conditions under the statue.
Visit marylandattorneygeneral.gov to view the full press release.