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Becerra sues Sessions to challenge immigration conditions on federal grants

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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. (Courtesy State of California Department of Justice)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Thursday, challenging immigration-enforcement conditions placed on federal law enforcement assistance grants.

California and local governments within the state are due to receive $28.9 million appropriated by Congress for the 2018 fiscal year in Justice Department grants from a program known as Justice Assistance Grants.

The department is requiring that recipients certify that they comply with certain federal immigration laws and that they are not impeding federal officials in carrying out the laws.

Becerra filed a similar challenge last year to conditions attached to grants for the 2017 fiscal year. That lawsuit is still pending before U.S. District Judge William Orrick of San Francisco.

Two federal judges in Chicago and Philadelphia partially struck down the conditions, in rulings that are now being appealed by the government.

Becerra said this year’s grants are tied to additional conditions, including the condition that recipients must certify they aren’t impeding federal officials.

The lawsuit claims that the conditions are unconstitutional because they interfere with Congress’s power to determine spending and to set laws.

State attorneys say in the lawsuit that California does comply with the conditions in the JAG authorizing law and with law providing justice assistance and with federal immigration laws.

But the lawsuit claims the certification conditions set by the Justice Department are not authorized by Congress and in some cases go beyond federal laws to require states to aid the federal government in carrying out its immigration enforcement responsibilities.

Becerra said in a statement that withholding grants from local police and sheriffs “doesn’t make our communities safer – it leaves them more vulnerable.”

A Justice Department spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

-Julie Cheever, Bay City News

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