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Trump v. California

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Another day, another lawsuit over the federal government’s immigration policy.

This morning the state’s top prosecutor, Xavier Becerra, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera announced that they are filing side-by-side law suits against the Trump administration, an effort to protect federal funding for designated “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear that badge for the federal government to threaten their crime fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said at a San Francisco press conference this morning. “We’re in the public safety business; we’re not in the deportation business.”

These two lawsuits come as a response to an announcement from the federal Department of Justice last July that cities must cooperate with federal immigration authorities in order to receive funding through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grant program. Specifically, cities must grant federal immigration authorities access to local detention facilities and give them 48 hours notice before the release of a suspected undocumented immigrant from local custody.

In a similar vein, Justice Department also sent letters earlier this month to the police chiefs of Stockton and San Bernardino, warning them that funding from a new federal grant program aimed at reducing violent crime could be made conditional on scrapping local sanctuary city policies.

SF City Attorney Press Conference – 8/14/17

Uploaded by SFGovTV on 2017-08-11.

California cities, counties, and state agencies receive over $28 million from the federal government in law enforcement grants.

Today’s announcement follows a similar bit of litigation filed by the City of Chicago earlier this month. In response to that lawsuit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the administration refused to “simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens.”

“So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars,” Sessions said in a statement.

Because the Trump administration is attempting to place restrictions on police officers and sheriff’s deputies, opponents have argued that it amounts to the commandeering of state and local officers by the federal government, a violation of the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

“Immigration enforcement is the federal government’s job,” Herrera said. “Our police and deputies are focused on fighting crime, not breaking up hardworking families.”

While Governor Brown has expressed some skepticism about Senate Bill 54, the so-called “sanctuary state” bill currently before the state Assembly, earlier this month on NBC’s Meet The Press he said that it might be more productive to “resolve this in a judicial form rather than in the rhetoric of politicians talking past one another.”

The battle between California and the Trump administration dates back to the first days of the administration. In late January, the president signed an executive order deeming designated sanctuary jurisdictions “not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes.” That order has since been successfully held up in court by cities, counties, and states across the country—including California and San Francisco.

Two California cities in the running for a new federal aid program aimed at fighting violent crime received an ominous message today from the Trump Department of Justice: sanctuary cities need not apply.

In a letter sent to the police chiefs of San Bernardino and Stockton, the administration made it clear that participation in the newly created National Public Safety Partnership Program—which will train local police departments on how to better fight violent crime—may be conditional on cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Your jurisdiction has expressed interest in receiving assistance through the PSP program,” wrote acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson.The Department is reviewing your jurisdiction’s commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration.” 

The chiefs were asked to demonstrate that the laws of their cities require local police to allow federal immigration agents into city jails, provide federal authorities with advanced notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant from custody, and honor federal requests to detain an undocumented immigrant beyond his or her release date.

The California Trust Act prevents state and local law enforcement officers from keeping non-felons behind bars solely at the request of federal immigration authorities. The Justice Department has deemed this, and related state and local restrictions, to be unlawful “sanctuary” policies.

President Trump has threatened to revoke funding from designated “sanctuary cities” since the first days of his administration. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security began issuing weekly reports identifying cities, counties, and states considered to be out of compliance with federal immigration law. San Bernardino, though not Stockton, made the list. That program has since been suspended.

Last week, the Department of Justice announced that cities failing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities would no longer be eligible for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides state and local law enforcement agencies with funding for personnel, training, and equipment to fight crime.

Michael Tubbs, the mayor of Stockton, responded with a statement saying that while he looked forward to a “fair and equitable” review of the police department’s application, the city would not be changing any of its law enforcement policies. “Our police will continue the department policy to not stop, question, detain or place an immigration hold on any individual solely on the grounds that he or she may be a deportable alien,” said Tubbs. “This practice is consistent with law enforcement policy throughout the United States.”

Between January and July of this year, 2,158 violent crimes were committed in Stockton, making it the most violent city in the state per capita, according to FBI statistics. San Bernardino came in third after Oakland.

The police chiefs were given until August 18 to respond.

California’s most violent cities

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The Trump administration is increasing its pressure on self-identified sanctuary cities—announcing this week that it would pull some federal grants if cities refuse to notify immigration enforcers when they are about to release undocumented immigrants from local jails.

“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said.

Cities that receive funds from the Byrne Justice Assistance grant program are the targets of this new policy. In order to comply, cities will have to give 48-hour notice to federal immigration enforcement when an inmate is about to be released, allow agents into local and state jails to pick up undocumented inmates, and comply with a law that requires they not block the flow of information about the immigration status of those arrested.

San Francisco received $1.5 million last year from the grant program, which aims to decrease drug use and help with rehabilitation. City leaders have contended that their policies are already in line with the federal government. Under the guidelines for the grant program, cities already are required to allow federal agents into their jails and to give the government two days’ notice before releasing an inmate in the country illegally. The City Attorney’s office is reviewing the announcement and according to the San Francisco Chronicle said it did not “anticipate it would be successful.”

Critics are reviewing the policy and law experts have said it’s unclear if the president or the Department of Justice can place such unilateral conditions on funding.

Recent court decisions that blocked previous threats to cut off federal funds for sanctuary cities. At that time U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco said the push by the administration went beyond the president’s authority.

President Trump has promised to shake things up with his administration’s program-slashing budget proposal—and that could leave California vulnerable when the next big earthquake hits.

The Trump administration’s spending plan would ax funding for a region-spanning earthquake early warning system that is in the process of being rolled out along the West Coast.

“If that funding went away, we would have to lay off a number of the developers, and the development would basically cease,” Tom Heaton, a Caltech professor who works on the project, told the Los Angeles Times.

The president’s proposed budget aims to cut funding to the entire Department of Interior by $1.4 billion, or 10.9 percent. Eliminating ShakeAlert would save $8.2 million.

The program uses strategically located seismological sensors to estimate the magnitude of earthquakes in real time, allowing alerts to be sent to rail systems, hospitals and even smartphone users.

The proposed cut comes as some experts warn that California could be overdue for a major earthquake. A recent federal study found that a section of the San Andreas fault north of Los Angeles tends to rupture every 100 years. The last major quake occurred in 1857.

Photo by DF4D-0070

After months of hemming and hawing, the Department of Transportation announced today that it will be approving a $647 million grant to fund the electrification of the Caltrain rail corridor that connects San Francisco and San Jose.

That has some California Democrats praising the heavens, if not the Trump administration.

“This is an ‘Alleluia’ moment,” Silicon Valley Congresswoman Anna Eshoo said in a statement. “Today, I am proud that our generation is able to build something worthy of the future of our region.”

The fate of the electrification project has hung in political limbo since mid-February, when Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that she would hold off on approving the money. Caltrain officials applied for the grant in the final months of the Obama administration, and the fate of these dollars has been seen as one of many political flashpoints between California and the Trump administration.

Governor Brown and other California Democrats spent much of the spring lobbying the Department of Transportation, along with high-ranking California Republicans like Kevin McCarthy, to nudge the Trump administration toward approval. It remains unclear whether that charm offensive was responsible for today’s decision, but leading Democrats are already congratulating one another.

“This would have not been possible without the help of the local leaders who pushed for the project and my congressional colleagues who agreed to enact funding,” Senator Dianne Feinstein said in a statement. “This is a win for everyone involved.”

Well, maybe not everyone.

The administration’s decision to hold off earlier this year came weeks after all of California’s Republican Congress members penned a letter asking Chao to wait until the state’s high-speed rail project was subjected to an audit. Though the Silicon Valley electrification project is distinct from the High Speed Rail system, the California bullet train would run along the newly electrified tracks.

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