Court to Sanctuary Cities: Immigration Enforcement is ‘Community Policing’



The Trump administration scored an important, and surprising, legal victory when a U.S. appellate court panel ruled that “community policing” grants can be withheld from sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents.

Los Angeles police officials had requested $3.125 million in “Community Oriented Policing Services” (COPS) funding to hire 25 officers to “build trust and respect.” Though LA is home to an estimated 1 million illegal aliens, the city’s application did not cite “illegal immigration” as a reason for the new hires. Nor did it indicate officers would cooperate with federal authorities to help deport illegal aliens from local jails.

Those two omissions turned out to be costly. The Department of Justice (DOJ) rejected the city’s bid, and a three-member panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial this month.

“[The DOJ] has reasonably determined that illegal immigration enforcement is a public safety issue” that can be addressed through “the principles of community policing,” Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote in the 2-1 decision.

“Cooperation relating to enforcement of federal immigration law is in pursuit of the general welfare, and meets the low bar of being germane to the federal interest in providing the funding to address crime and disorder problems, and otherwise … enhance public safety … one of the main purposes for which the grant is intended,” she concluded.

RELATED: Report Affirms Public Safety Threat Posed By Sanctuary Policies

Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush, was joined in the majority by fellow Bush appointee Jay Bybee. In dissent, Judge Kim Wardlaw, appointed by President Bill Clinton, argued that the Justice Department illegally “decided to usurp COPS funds for its own immigration policy directives.”

Judge Wardlaw and sanctuary city officials in LA need to catch up with the times. Since 2017, the DOJ scoring system for competitive COPS grants has awarded extra points to departments seeking to hire officers to help federal authorities deport illegal aliens.

David Levine, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, three blocks from the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court, noted: “Before, the Justice Department was trying to force sanctuary cities to do things, and yank money from them retroactively if they didn’t. Now [DOJ] is saying, ‘You don’t have to take this money, but if you want it, it comes with strings attached.’ That’s a well-understood way the federal government gets states to do things.”

Indeed, “strings” have always been attached to government grants. It’s heartening to see judges on one of the nation’s most liberal courts affirming that sanctuary city police departments are not entitled to remuneration for subverting immigration enforcement and flouting U.S. law.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

8 Comments

  1. avatar

    When the time comes,ICE is to be sent in W/OUT notifying the cities/states of when they will be going in.Those who are protecting illegal aliens are committing TREASON against legal citizens and the United States of America.The punishment for committing TREASON in the United States is up to and including DEATH.Those who have been found guilty W/OUT doubt,MUST BE EXECUTED AFTER CONVICTION!We cannot have one set of rules for the government officials who work for “WE THE PEOPLE” who is the real government,and “WE THE PEOPLE”!

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  3. avatar
    LaNell Barrett on

    If there were rewards for each illegal reported and DEported, we’d see some fast improvement.

  4. avatar

    It’s like dealing with 5 year olds whose only aim seems to be opposing what the other side says. It’s soooo long ago, but remember a couple months back when all the political establishment in California, and all the knee jerk Hollywood airheads, were up in arms because Trump said he was going to give sanctuary jurisdictions what they wanted, which was sending border crossers there. No way, they cried, we are overwhelmed now. But you’ve never had a problem babbling your nonsense that all immigrants, legal or illegal, are welcome in California. In fact, you insisted for years they enriched your state, grew the economy, paid taxes, and did everything but walk on water.

    It’s like they go on about “kids in cages”. Ok, but the Democrats refused for months to even admit there was a crisis and vote adequate funds. So what do they actually want? Throw the kids out on the street? Just hand them over to the first person walking by, unchecked?

    The fact is that failing to cooperate with ICE costs ICE in both money and manpower. It’s take an illegal in custody at a jail, or spend days trying to find them after the sanctuary cities let them go. So don’t expect to be rewarded for your behavior. In fact, they should be required to work with federal agents.

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  6. avatar

    The politicians who run these sanctuary cities don’t really care about the welfare of illegals. They care about maintaining their voter bases and political power. They can’t do this with the help of US citizens alone. So they resort to underhanded methods — like having illegal aliens vote. No wonder these politicians get so agitated every time they hear more calls for stricter voter ID laws.

  7. avatar

    Sanctuary cities, if you don’t want to take out the trash, then bury yourselves in it and don’t expect the Federal government to come in an clean up YOUR MESS!