Photo Courtesy of NYC Law Department
Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter
By Michael V. Cusenza
The City has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice for what it has characterized as “unlawful efforts” to force NYC officials to engage in federal immigration enforcement, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter recently announced.
Last year, DOJ placed “unprecedented” conditions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance public safety grant the City has relied on for years, according to the administration. DOJ has yet to release the $4 million grant, named after Edward Byrne, a Queens cop killed in Jamaica while protecting a Guyanese immigrant who was acting as a cooperating witness, and has also threatened to retract millions more from previous years.
According to the complaint, the conditions are illegal and undermine City policies that protect all residents, including its immigrants, and keep crime low. The City has asked the court to deem the conditions illegal and compel immediate payment to the City.
Until recently, the City has applied for and received its local allocation under the federal grant formula every year since the program’s inception in 2005. According to the administration, the Byrne grant supports public safety initiatives, including 911 emergency responders, diversion programs for nonviolent felony drug offenders, and anti-cybercrime and identity theft efforts, to name only a few public safety initiatives.
Carter ripped DOJ for abruptly altering “grant requirements in an attempt to force the City to abandon policies of constructive engagement with its immigrant residents that have proven effective in maintaining and enhancing public safety. The conditions DOJ seeks to impose are an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion on the City’s policy prerogatives, are inconsistent with the intent of Congress and diminish the city’s safety. As detailed in our complaint, DOJ’s efforts would cause immigrant communities to disengage from public services and retreat into the shadows, to the detriment of their own safety and that of the public. We are asking the court to permanently enjoin DOJ from imposing the three conditions and compel immediate payment to the City.”
On the same day that the City took DOJ to court, the State filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to block its efforts to punish so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions by putting immigration-related conditions on federal law enforcement grants. In the suit, a coalition of six attorneys general, led by NY AG Barbara Underwood, argue that the Trump administration’s conditions on the grants interfere with the right of states and localities to set their own law enforcement policies, and that DOJ lacks the authority to impose these new conditions.
“Local law enforcement has the right to decide how to meet their local public safety needs – and the Trump administration simply does not have the right to require state and local police to act as federal immigration agents,” Underwood said. “Instead of allowing New York’s law enforcement agencies to determine how best to keep New Yorkers safe, the Trump administration is threatening to withhold vital public safety funds. This is a political attack on New Yorkers, at the expense of our public safety – and it is unlawful. So we will see the Trump administration in court.”