California Judge Stands in the Way of DOJ's Fight to End Dangerous Sanctuary Cities

| APR 13, 2018 | 3:58 PM

As multiple jurisdictions resisted federal immigration enforcement, the Justice Department tried to fight back by withholding grant money to those areas. But after a federal judge's recent decision, the DOJ may have lost the ability to use that approach in its battle against sanctuary cities.

Manuel Real, a U.S. district judge in Los Angeles, issued a permanent, nationwide injunction on Thursday attempting to block the DOJ from withholding funds from local governments that refuse to help federal immigration authorities.

The city's lawsuit claimed that DOJ presented an “untenable choice” of either helping federal immigration enforcement or giving up funds for public safety. Real reasoned that DOJ “upset the constitutional balance between state and federal power” and stepped out of its authority by restricting federal funding, something it said was under Congress' purview.

While Mike Feurer, the Los Angeles city attorney, described the ruling as a “complete victory,” a Justice Department spokesman indicated the administration would appeal Real's decision. Spokesman Devin O'Malley said the court “chose to issue a permanent nationwide injunction that is overbroad and inconsistent with the rule of law.”

“We look forward to continuing the strong defense of our position,” he said, according to the SFGate on Thursday.

Watch city officials comment on the ruling below.

The ruling came amid an effort by President Donald Trump's administration to combat sanctuary cities and fight illegal immigration. Last month, for example, the Justice Department announced a lawsuit over California's sanctuary laws.

Prior to that lawsuit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly threatened to remove federal grants from jurisdictions that limited local law enforcement's cooperation with federal authorities.

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Thursday's ruling, according to Feurer, served as “yet another dagger in the heart of the administration's efforts to use federal funds as a weapon to make local jurisdictions complicit in its civil immigration enforcement policies.”