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Ninth Circuit Hands Trump Administration Win in Sanctuary-City Case

The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building in San Francisco, Calif., home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Noah Berger/Reuters)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the Trump administration Friday in a case concerning the withholding of federal funds for local policing from so-called sanctuary cities.

A three-judge panel of the court ruled 2–1 that the Justice Department could deny Community Oriented Policing Services grants to cities and states that have “sanctuary” policies prohibiting law-enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Los Angeles, a sanctuary city, sued the Justice Department when it was denied a $3 million grant under the administration’s policy. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling reversed the decision of a California court in that suit.

“The panel rejected Los Angeles’s argument that DOJ’s practice of giving additional consideration to applicants that choose to further the two specified federal goals violated the Constitution’s Spending Clause,” Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote for the majority. “The panel held that DOJ did not exceed its statutory authority in awarding bonus points to applicants that selected the illegal immigration focus area or that agreed to the Certification.”

Judge Kim Wardlaw, writing in dissent, called the Justice Department’s objective of attempting to have local authorities cooperate on illegal immigration “Orwellian.”

Trump issued an executive order in January 2017 limiting the provision of federal funds to sanctuary cities, but its implementation has been tied up in courts since then.

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