Los Angeles is seeking to join a lawsuit by San Francisco over immigration restrictions placed on a major federal grant by the Trump administration.
Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer said in a court filing Tuesday that the conditions imposed on the public safety grant program run by the Department of Justice are unconstitutional. Feuer asked a federal judge to allow the city to join San Francisco's suit, which raises similar objections.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in July cities and states can only receive Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants if they allow federal immigration officials access to detention facilities. They must also provide advance 48 hours notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.
"The executive branch is overreaching here and we're going to fight," Feuer told KPCC.
He said the Trump administration is trying to force Los Angeles to make an "completely untenable" choice: Either risking key public safety funds or making LAPD "an arm of federal immigration enforcement."
"That's not a choice we should be required to make," said Feuer. "Grants to protect public safety are not weapons," said Feuer, referring to Trump's comments calling federal funds weapons. "The welfare of our families is never an appropriate target."
So called sanctuary cities have policies in place that prohibit them from handing over immigrants to federal immigration officials without a warrant from a judge. They also say the DOJ's new conditions would make members of immigrant communities less willing to come forward and cooperate with local law enforcement for fear of being deported.
Local officials use the grants for a range of things, from hiring more police officers to buying new police cars, computers and even bullet-proof vests. Some communities use the money to fund public safety programs to help, for example, at-risk youth or to combat drug use.
Chicago and California have also sued over the grant conditions.
In its lawsuit, Chicago says the grant money has provided "critical (and, at times, lifesaving) equipment" to the city's police and critical services to residents.
This is the second time that cities and states have used the courts to challenge a Trump administration threat to yank funding for sanctuary cities. In April, a federal judge temporarily blocked an earlier attempt by the administration to withhold funding for sanctuary cities.