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DOJ Rescinds Trump-Era Policy Denying Grant Money to Sanctuary Cities

The move targeted a May 2017 directive requiring recipients of a $250 million law enforcement grant pool to cooperate with immigration authorities. 

Activists participate in an "Abolish ICE" protest against the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies in New York City's Grand Central Station on August 29, 2019. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Activists participate in a pre-coronavirus pandemic "Abolish ICE" protest against the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies in New York City's Grand Central Station on August 29, 2019. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images) 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland earlier this month rescinded a Trump administration policy that denied hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants to law enforcement agencies in sanctuary jurisdictions, Reuters revealed Wednesday. 

The news agency viewed an internal Justice Department memo sent by Maureen Henneberg, acting head of the Office of Justice Programs, revoking a May 2017 directive from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that limited $250 million in federal funding for law enforcement to states, counties, and municipalities that cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Henneberg's memo instructs DOJ employees to "pull down and revise all solicitations that describe requirements or priority consideration elements or criteria pertaining to immigration."

The memo also orders DOJ staff to rescind any pending grant applications conditioned upon cooperation with ICE. "These solicitations will be reposted and grantees will be required to reapply," she wrote. 

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Garland ordered department officials to implement the new policy on April 14, according to Reuters. The move followed President Joe Biden's signing of an executive order overturning one of Trump's first directives, an order aimed at pressuring jurisdictions into cracking down on undocumented immigration. 

The DOJ's Community-Oriented Policing website states that "grant-making components issued revised guidance on April 22, 2021 regarding conditions on certain department grants," and that consistent with Biden's executive order and Garland's April 14 directive, "DOJ informed grant recipients and applicants that they will continue receiving certain department grants."

Numerous states and cities sued the DOJ over the grant prohibition policy. Last February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the Trump administration, setting up a potential U.S. Supreme Court showdown that was averted by Biden's election. Last month, the DOJ urged the Supreme Court to dismiss pending sanctuary city cases. 

Former President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policies targeting undocumented migrants and refugees and the communities that offered them sanctuary coincided with a broader campaign against progressive cities that included designating New York, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon "anarchist jurisdictions." 

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