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Over this past weekend, in a surprising turn of events, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Trump Administration's decision to withhold federal dollars from cities based in part on their "sanctuary city" status. The 2-1 opinion from a panel on the 9th Circuit overturned a nationwide injunction issued by a federal judge, who sided with the city of Los Angeles in its lawsuit over Community Oriented Policing Services grants. These grants are determined by a point system that takes into account whether the city applying is a sanctuary city, as reported by the Washington Examiner.

In 2017, the Trump Administration found Los Angeles did not qualify for the grant because it failed to receive enough points under 2017 rules put in place by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which gave cities extra points for cooperating with the federal immigration officials with illegal immigrants who have been detained in city jails. Judge Sandra Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush, stated in her concurring opinion:

Cooperation relating to enforcement of federal immigration law is in pursuit of the general welfare, and meets the low bar of being germane to the federal interest in providing the funding to 'address crime and disorder problems, and otherwise ... enhance public safety, [the] DOJ has reasonably determined that cooperation on illegal immigration matters furthers the purposes of the Act.

Judge Kim Wardlaw, a President Bill Clinton appointee, called the ruling "Orwellian" in the way it tried to equate federal immigration enforcement with enhanced community policing and stated in her dissenting opinion:

Nothing in the congressional record nor the Act itself remotely mentions immigration or immigration enforcement as a goal. In the quarter-century of the Act’s existence, Congress has not once denoted civil immigration enforcement as a proper purpose for COPS grants

The Department of Justice praised this decision and released a statement that contained:

The Department is pleased that the Court recognized the lawful authority of the Administration to provide favorable treatment when awarding discretionary law-enforcement grants to jurisdictions that assist in enforcing federal immigration laws.

The White House followed suit, issuing a statement saying:

This ruling reverses a lawless decision that enabled Sanctuary City policies, putting the safety and security of all Americans in harm’s way. We urge citizens across America to demand that Democrat leaders cease their support for Sanctuary policies that deprive Americans of life, limb, and liberty.

Supporters of sanctuary cities say that encouraging local police to participate in federal immigration enforcement is counterproductive: People will be less likely to report crimes if they believe they’ll be deported for doing so. But the 9th Circuit’s opinion found that to be a question of policy, not law, said David Levine, a professor at University of California Hastings College of the Law. He adds:

What the Justice Department was doing before, they were trying to force sanctuary cities to do things, and yank money from them retroactively if they didn’t. They’ve gotten a little more sophisticated now. They’re saying, ‘You don’t have to take this money, but if you want it, it comes with strings attached.’ That’s a well-understood way the federal government gets states to do things. You don’t use a stick, you use a carrot.

Updated: Tue, Jul 30th 2019 @ 12:20pm EDT