9th Circuit Lets DOJ Withhold Funds for Sanctuary Cities

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…’

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(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) A federal appeals court in California overturned the lower court’s injunction that said officials could not withhold funds to so-called sanctuary cities for their refusal to cooperate with immigration authorities.

The ruling, filed last Friday by a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, specifically reversed a challenge from Los Angeles to the Justice Department‘s Community Oriented Policing Services.

The program gives points for enforcement of illegal immigration laws among a multitude of factors in awarding grant funding to local jurisdictions.

The decision is the latest in a series of surprise court victories for the Trump administration in the 9th Circuit, a once notoriously liberal stronghold that has become more ideologically balanced after recent judicial appointments.

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The randomly selected panel comprised two George W. Bush appointees and one Bill Clinton appointee, who dissented.

The Immigration Reform Law Institute celebrated the ruling as an encouraging sign from the once activist bench.

“We are gratified that the Ninth Circuit showed common sense in this case,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI, in a press release.

The court “did not buy the bizarre argument that keeping criminal aliens in a city actually makes people safer, because it supposedly makes illegal aliens trust the police more,” Wilcox said.

“It is refreshing that, instead, the Ninth Circuit accepted the obvious connection between public safety and getting criminals—including career criminals—out of our nation’s cities,” he added.

The decision, issued by Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta, affirmed that immigration enforcement was a relevant component in the program’s underlying purpose.

[C]ooperation 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,” Ikuta wrote.

Opponents argued that immigration enforcement flew in the face of “community-oriented” policing by discouraging cooperation with local authorities.

But the court cited previous decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress, acknowledging that illegal immigrants “are reported to be responsible for a disproportionate share of serious crime.”

Since there was no codified legislative definition of what “community-oriented” policing entailed, the court ruled that the determination was entirely within the purview of Attorney General William Barr and his department.

Echoing a recent Supreme Court decision that validated the Commerce Department’s authority to include a citizenship question on the national census, Ikuta chided the district court for attempting to substitute its own judgment for that of the agency.

The DOJ “need not demonstrate to [our] satisfaction that the reasons for the new policy are better than the reasons for the old one,” she said. “[I]t suffices that the new policy is permissible under the statute, that there are good reasons for it, and that the agency believes it to be better.”