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LA's city attorney considers his options to protect funds from the feds

File: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer speaks to the press during the inaugural National Prosecutorial Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
File: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer speaks to the press during the inaugural National Prosecutorial Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
Branden Camp/AP

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The Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, issued new guidelines last month regarding undocumented inmates held in local jails. 

They require local law enforcement to give the Department of Homeland Security 48 hours notice before releasing certain detainees. And the rules came with a very big stick: comply or risk losing federal law enforcement grants.  

That didn't sit well with L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer, in large part because the grant gives the city about $1.5 million to help local officers address violent crimes.

Earlier this week, Feuer responded to the DOJ, arguing that the new rules shouldn't apply to L.A. city jails. He also asked for clarification on the order, giving the Justice Department a deadline of Friday.

In the letter, Feuer said that if he didn't receive an answer he "may be compelled to seek judicial relief."

The application deadline for the grant, the "Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program," is less than a month away.

"Our jails are not places where we keep people convicted of crimes," Feuer explained to KPCC's Take Two. "We keep in L.A. jails folks who have been arrested," Feuer said. 

He said the city rarely needs to keep an inmate longer than 48 hours, making it difficult for L.A. to comply with the DOJ's newest guidelines. 

"The way Homeland Security gets apprised even of someone being in our detention is a series of steps that are are taken that eventually get to Homeland Security in that 48-hour period," Feuer said. 

The City Attorney said he's concerned that holding inmates for longer than legally necessary could violate their rights. 

"There are courts that have said that if a jail official detains somebody for more than the period when otherwise they'd be released, that that could subject the city to liability," Feuer said. "That's the bottom line here. We don't want to be in that position," he said.

City Attorney Feuer said Friday that the Department of Justice has acknowledged receiving his letter, but a "substantive" conversation has yet to be had. 

"Sometime after this morning, we will have had communications with the Department and will continue to evaluate what the best course of action is to protect the city's funds and to make the city as safe as possible," he said. 

Feuer declined to say exactly what legal remedies he's considering. 

"I'm not going to tip our hand at this point," Feuer said. 

Press the blue play button above to hear the interview.