A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that the Trump administration can withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement funding in an effort to force states and cities to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
The decision overturns a lower court ruling ordering the administration to release funds to New York City and 7 states. The states had sued the administration in 2017 when the government announced that it would withhold the grant money until the states allowed immigration authorities access to jails and gave notice when an illegal alien was about to be released.
Two other appeals court decisions have gone against the administration, so this victory is especially significant as the policy wends its way to the Supreme Court.
The 2nd Circuit said the plain language of relevant laws make clear that the U.S. attorney general can impose conditions on states and municipalities receiving money.
And it noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the federal government maintains broad power over states when it comes to immigration policies.
Reading that decision, you might get the impression that the Constitution actually means what it says. Who would have thought federal judges could have been so discerning?
“While mindful of the respect owed to our sister circuits, we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue,” the 2nd Circuit three-judge panel said in a decision written by Judge Reena Raggi.
“These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight,” the appeals court said.
Why is this so hard to understand? Liberal judges tie themselves in logic knots trying to find the legal justification to allow states and cities to defy the law. They really don’t have to work so hard.
Not surprisingly, the Justice Department was tickled.
The Justice Department praised the decision, issuing a statement calling it a “major victory for Americans” and saying it recognizes that the attorney general has authority to ensure that grant recipients are not thwarting federal law enforcement priorities.
The department added that the ruling’s effect will be limited because other courts have ruled the other way, giving the plaintiffs in the New York case the opportunity to point to those as reasons to ignore the new conditions.
The case is headed to Washington and the Supreme Court anyway, at which point it faces an uncertain future. Past decisions have recognized the argument that cities and states don’t have to do the work of federal immigration authorities like holding illegal aliens in jail who have committed a crime.
But it may be that the Supreme Court’s newer members will give it a majority. At this point, however, it’s impossible to say.