California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera held a press conference at San Francisco’s City Hall Monday morning, announcing that the pair are suing the Trump Administration over threats to withhold a federal grant from sanctuary cities. The federal government has requested that immigration authorities receive 48 hours notice before any undocumented immigrants held in jail are released — an act which violates San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy. San Francisco’s suit was filed in the in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, and California’s will be filed today.
“This president is bent on trying to vilify immigrants and punish cities that prioritize real, effective public safety over splitting up hard-working families,” Herrera said. “Trump attacked sanctuary cities in January with his unlawful executive order. We stopped him in court. Then he tried to sneak through a change in the law by burying it deep in his budget. Now he’s trying to have one of his departments rewrite the rules. So we’re back in court once again, with allies by our side, to compel him to follow the law.”
Herrera voiced support for San Francisco’s sanctuary city policy in his speech on Monday. “The Trump administration is…falsely claiming that sanctuary cities are havens for criminals,” he said. “The opposite is true. Sanctuary policies improve public safety by ensuring anyone can seek help if they are the victim of a crime. They can call 911 without fear that it will lead to them or someone they know being deported. This cooperation with law enforcement gets criminals off the streets and makes everyone safer.”
The suit was filed in defense not just of sanctuary cities, but of the funds the federal government provides to San Francisco as part of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Approximately $1.4 million is given to the city from the Byrne grant, and $28.3 million to the state of California. This money is specifically allocated to fighting crime, through the Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office, as well as for programs that reduce recidivism, provide substance abuse counseling and offer services to at-risk youth.
This isn’t the first time Herrera has sued to halt Trump’s executive order denying federal funds to sanctuary cities, but this lawsuit takes particular aim at the withholding of the Byrne Grant Program. And San Francisco is not alone in this specific battle: Chicago filed a similar lawsuit defending its right to the Byrne Grant last week. Once Becerra files his suit today, California will become the first state to sue the administration over the grant.
“I don’t see this as a fight against the Federal Government. We’re fighting to protect the Constitution,” said Becerra.
“We are protecting undocumented immigrants, native-born, and taxpayer dollars that Californians pay to the Federal Treasury,” Herrera said. “When those threats come at us, we will take them on. We will take them on as the people of the city of San Francisco, and we will take them on as the 40 million people in the state of California.”