A U.S. judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement grants from Oregon to force the nation’s first sanctuary state to cooperate with U.S. immigration enforcement.
U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane in Eugene said in his ruling late Wednesday that the Trump administration lacks the authority to impose conditions on the grants that were provided by Congress.
Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum had sued President Donald Trump in November to get a total of $4 million in grants from fiscal years 2017 and 2018 restored to the state, saying Oregon was “unlawfully deprived” of the money.
Funding for public safety purposes
Rosenblum welcomed the judge’s ruling.
“We look forward to having these moneys we have relied upon continue to be available for critical public safety purposes,” Rosenblum said in an email.
A Veterans Treatment Court in Eugene and 40 other specialty courts, including mental health and civilian drug programs, risked losing all or part of their budgets if the money was withheld.
The Trump administration in 2017 threatened to withhold law enforcement grants from 29 cities, counties or states it viewed as having sanctuary policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents. Other courts also have ruled against the administration. By March, all those jurisdictions had received or been cleared to get the money, except Oregon.
“The U.S. government’s decision to withhold public safety dollars on account of our status as a sanctuary state was just simply wrongheaded,” Rosenblum said. “I remain committed to supporting our law enforcement officers’ ability to protect and serve all residents of Oregon regardless of where they were born or their immigration status.”
McShane indicated the administration’s policy put Oregon into the difficult position of either adopting stricter immigration policies or forgoing “critical law enforcement funds” and facing federal sanctions.
“Plaintiffs would, under any of these circumstances, risk public safety by eroding trust with immigrant communities or abandoning critical law enforcement initiatives funded by the Byrne JAG Program,” the judge wrote.
The Byrne grants, named for a New York City policeman killed by gang members in 1988, are the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions, supporting law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Oregon’s 1987 sanctuary state law, the nation’s first, prevents law enforcement from detaining people who are in the U.S. illegally but have not broken any other law. Authorities in the state won’t hold in custody those who committed crimes and have finished their sentences to be picked up by federal immigration agents, unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
The federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Trump administration’s attempt to put conditions on the grants violated the 10th Amendment, which says any power not expressly given to the federal government falls to the states or their people.
Portland also received the grants every year until 2017, using the money to buy bulletproof vests and special-threat plates for officers, acquire tactical medical kits, install GPS systems in its cars and add two victim advocates to the Police Bureau’s sex crimes unit.
The city had expected to receive $780,000 for the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years.
McShane ordered the federal government to give the grants for fiscal 2017 and 2018 that it withheld, with no conditions or penalties.