How Will Grant Administrators Respond to DOJ Threats to Withhold Funding?

April 25, 2017 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

7caoqe8giYou may have seen reports in the news lately about efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” which are jurisdictions that have essentially declined to assist federal attempts to identify and potentially deport people living in the U.S. illegally. To ratchet up the drama, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) has now sent a letter to seven cities, one county and one state threatening to withhold federal grant funding if they don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The letter states that under the terms of each jurisdiction’s federal fiscal year 2016 Byrne JAG grant from DOJ, it is required to submit documentation to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) that validates that the jurisdiction is in compliance with 8 U.S.C. §1373. This law states that “a federal, state or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” The letter goes on to say, “As your grant agreement makes clear, this documentation must be accompanied by an official legal opinion from counsel that adequately supports the validation and must be submitted to OJP no later than June 30” and that “failure to comply with the condition could result in the withholding of grant funds, suspension or termination of the grant, ineligibility for future OJP grant or subgrants, or other action as appropriate.” The letters were sent to officials in Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee and New York City, as well as the state of California and Cook County, Ill.

Heavy language, indeed. But some of the mayors of these jurisdictions were frustrated with the DOJ letter. “If anybody in the Trump administration would actually do some research before firing off letters, they would see that the city of New Orleans has already provided the Department of Justice documentation that shows we are in compliance with federal immigration laws,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.

Regardless of the political banter, one has to feel for the grants administrator in charge of the Byrne JAG grant in each of these jurisdictions. Overseeing programs funded by federal dollars is difficult enough without the threat of losing such funding hanging over their heads, particularly as they attempt to plan how dollars will be spent in the future. These administrators may be caught in the political crossfire between city policies and federal demands.

It will be interesting to see how these jurisdictions eventually respond to the DOJ letter and what action they take. The battle of sanctuary cities doesn’t seem to be dying off any time soon.

Let us know your reaction to the DOJ letter threatening to withhold federal funding. Is this a valid approach or too much governmental overreach? Let us know how you feel.

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