California Sues U.S. for Tying Grants to Immigration Enforcement

(Bloomberg) -- California accused the U.S. Justice Department of breaking the law by making as much as $327.7 million in grants to law enforcement and to help victims of crime contingent on assurances that recipients don’t employ undocumented workers.

The state said that the Trump administration is illegally using federal grant programs to coerce California to comply with federal immigration-enforcement demands.

“These conditions are part of defendants’ escalating effort to unilaterally and fundamentally remake formula grant structures created by Congress into discretionary funding streams to be exploited for the administration’s immigration-enforcement priorities,” the state said in the complaint filed Monday in San Francisco federal court.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

A number of cities have fought successfully against prior attempts by the Justice Department to make local police grants dependent on cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. The new conditions apply to a broader range of programs and would require recipients to ensure that no one who gets the money violates a U.S. law against hiring undocumented workers, according to the complaint.

California is already complying with the federal law to determine that employees are eligible to work in the U.S., but the government isn’t satisfied with its efforts, according to the complaint. The new requirement would impose an obligation on the state to re-verify its employees even when it’s not required, according to the complaint.

“Because California law does not allow for unnecessary reverification, nor must it, the federal government’s erroneous view of federal law raises doubt as to whether defendants will find the state to be in compliance with this new condition,” California said.

Among the federal grant programs that could be cut under the new requirements are Victims of Crime Act assistance and compensation grants and Violence Against Women Act grants, according to California.

The case is California v. Barr, 19-cv-06189, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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