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Thomas Gallatin / Feb. 27, 2020

A Big Win Against 'Sanctuary' States

Second Circuit Court's ruling sets up SCOTUS to weigh in on leftists' "sanctuary" policies.

President Donald Trump got a big immigration win on Wednesday when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Justice Department’s decision to condition Byrne Program federal grants to states upon the requirement that they cooperate with federal immigration law. The ruling came after New York, which declared itself an illegal-alien “sanctuary” state in 2017, entered a lawsuit with several other sanctuary jurisdictions against the Trump administration for withholding the grant funding. Under its “sanctuary” policy, New York refuses to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, specifically regarding honoring ICE retainer requests for criminal aliens.

Second Circuit Judge Reena Raggi recognized that other circuit courts had ruled in favor of “sanctuary” states. But in the decision she argued that based upon the plain reading of the law, “we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants at issue.” She explained, “These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations. But more to the authorization point, they ensure that applicants satisfy particular statutory grant requirements imposed by Congress and subject to Attorney General oversight.” Raggi also cogently observed that a “state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

This split between the courts will likely result in the Supreme Court weighing in on the issue. This is good news for both the Trump administration and the American people, as SCOTUS has more often than not sided with the Trump administration on cases concerning immigration enforcement. Furthermore, the Second Circuit’s appeal to the “plain language of the relevant statutes” for its decision provides the most compelling argument yet in support of the Trump administration’s position.

The court victories for Trump regarding his administration’s immigration enforcement have been rare but significant, as his administration has slowly but steadily worked to overcome Democrats’ resistance to his enforcement policies. And the administration has recently ramped up its efforts against leftist state governments that have been undercutting federal law enforcement. Just two weeks ago, Attorney General William Barr announced new sanctions in what he is calling a “significant escalation” to combat lawless sanctuary cities.

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