Dangling $100 Million in Federal Funds, Trump DOJ 'Coercing' Local Police to Target Immigrant Communities
"Instead of instilling trust between communities and law enforcement, Trump is solidifying his ultimate goal: to create a divided and fearful country."
The Trump administration's Justice Department has announced that it is doling out nearly $100 million to local police departments, with priority given to those that have promised to report undocumented immigrant to federal authorities.
Immigrant rights advocates immediately denounced the decision, and warned of the likely consequences.
"The Trump administration is hell-bent on coercing local police to implement its racist agenda."
—Lorella Praeli, ACLU
"The Trump administration is hell-bent on coercing local police to implement its racist agenda," said Lorella Praeli, the ACLU's director of immigration policy and campaigns. "By funding local police departments that agree to target immigrants, President [Donald] Trump is making communities less safe."
"Hundreds of thousands will now be reluctant to report incidents of domestic violence and other crimes because they are scared of being detained or deported," Praeli warned. "Instead of instilling trust between communities and law enforcement, Trump is solidifying his ultimate goal: to create a divided and fearful country."
The department said Monday that it will allocate $98,495,397 in grant funding to 179 local agencies nationwide through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program. The grants will enable the agencies to hire more than 800 full-time officers.
Although the majority of agencies that are receiving funds have apparently expressed a willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, those agencies were not distinguished in the department's grantee list (pdf).
Attorney General Jeff Sessions—a former senator notorious for pushing policies that target undocumented immigrants—said Monday "that 80 percent of this year's COPS Hiring Program grantees have agreed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in their detention facilities," and urged other local departments to follow suit.
A Justice Department official told BuzzFeed News that those agencies "received extra points" because they agreed "to give the Department of Homeland Security access to detention facilities and provide at least 48 hours notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant."
The other 20 percent "scored high enough without agreeing to the terms," and "may include jurisdictions that do not operate a detention facility," BuzzFeed reports, noting that "many cities have contracts with county-run jails, potentially putting those cities at a disadvantage when seeking grants because they are unable to earn those points."
Agencies were notified when they applied that they were more likely to receiving funding if they agreed to help identify undocumented immigrants, according to a DOJ statement which stipulated "cooperation may include providing access to detention facilities for an interview of aliens in the jurisdiction's custody and providing advance notice of an alien's release from custody upon request."
This policiy is a notable departure from how agencies received funding through the grant program under Trump's predecessor. As BuzzFeed reports:
By contrast, the same grant program under the Obama administration gave a leg up to police departments in 2016 that were "building trust" within their communities, based on standards set out in Obama's 21st Century Policing plan, which sought to promote transparency and diversity among police, and switch to a "guardian" culture instead of "warrior culture of policing." Applicants in 2016 also earned points for engaging in school-based policing, homicide or violent crime, and homeland security.
At the helm of the Justice Department, Sessions is seen as a driving force behind the Trump administration's immigration policies, including the decision in September to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The police grant announcement came as a federal judge in California issued a blow to a similar effort by Sessions and the Trump administration to pressure local law enforcement to assist federal agents with identifying and deporting undocumented people.
District Judge William Orrick—who had temporarily blocked a presidential order that sought to withhold federal funds from "sanctuary cities" that refuse to turn over any individual who is arrested and suspected of entering the country illegally—permanently blocked the order late Monday, calling it "unconstitutional on its face."