- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Justice Department has sought to persuade a federal judge to reconsider a ruling that set limits on the scope of President Trump’s executive order to prevent so-called sanctuary cities from receiving some federal grants.

In court documents filed late Monday, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo that detailed what actions would put local jurisdictions at risk of losing federal funds, the Justice Department asked the court to consider the memo as a basis for reconsideration of its earlier ruling.

The memo issued Monday officially provides a definition for a sanctuary city as a jurisdiction that refuses to share certain immigration status-related information with federal officials. It also outlines the pool of grant money that a jurisdiction would risk by not cooperating with immigration officials, narrowing the scope of at-risk grants to those overseen by the Justice Department or the Department of Homeland Security rather than all sources of federal funding.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick’s April 25 order pointed to Mr. Trump’s and Mr. Sessions’ comments about the executive order to conclude that its goal was to restrict uncooperative jurisdiction’s access to all federal grants, not just three grants mentioned by the Justice Department.

“If there was doubt about the scope of the order, the president and attorney general have erased it with their public comments,” Judge Orrick wrote in his 49-page order. “The president has called it ‘a weapon’ to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement.”

But the Justice Department’s court filing says the guidance in Mr. Sessions memo “contradicts many of the bases upon which the court relied in reaching its conclusions.”

“Based on its broad interpretation of the grant-eligibility provision, the court held that plaintiff had established a likelihood it would be subject to enforcement under the provision, and that the plaintiff would be successful on the merits of its constitutional challenges,” the Justice Department filing states. “The AG Memorandum contradicts the court’s interpretation of the grant-eligibility provision and thereby undermines much of the logic upon which the court’s analysis is based.”

California’s Santa Clara County and San Francisco had challenged the president’s order, arguing that it would undermine local governments’ autonomy and wreak havoc on their budgets.

Judge Orrick did find that the Trump administration can withhold funds in cases where the law already gives the president permission to base grant eligibility on compliance with federal immigration authorities. The Justice Department acknowledged during the course of the lawsuit that three grants that stipulate such compliance as a condition of the grant could be revoked under the executive order: the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, the COPS program and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which pays local prisons and jails to hold illegal immigrants.

Under the attorney general’s memo, jurisdictions will be considered ineligible for certain grants if they “willfully refuse to comply” with U.S.C. 1373, which bans local governments from enacting policies that restrict or prohibit communications with the Department of Homeland Security “regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”

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