Department of Justice OKs $6.4M in law enforcement grants for Connecticut withheld under Trump due to concern about sanctuary cities

Russell Blair, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

The U.S. Department of Justice will grant $6.4 million in federal law enforcement funding to Connecticut that was blocked during the Trump administration under an effort to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants.

At issue in Connecticut was the Trust Act, legislation from 2013 that outlines specific conditions when local and state law enforcement can hold someone solely on immigration-related offenses. Then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in 2017 that law meant the state was not in compliance with new conditions attached to the grants that required greater cooperation between state and local police and federal immigration officials.

Connecticut officials argued the Trust Act did not prohibit local and state authorities from exchanging information with immigration officials but simply stipulated individuals could not be held for reasons related to their immigration status if there was no accompanying criminal charge or other criteria met.

“Today’s action ends years of needless litigation and finally frees millions of dollars in wrongly-withheld funding to state and local law enforcement,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday, in a statement. “The federal government was wrong in attempting to force Connecticut police to devote their time and attention to federal immigration enforcement. Police have had their hands more than full addressing serious public safety threats like gun violence, domestic violence, and the opioid epidemic, and this federal support is long-overdue.”

Connecticut and six other states sued the Justice Department in 2018 arguing the new conditions related to immigration enforcement attached to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program interfered with states’ rights to set their own law enforcement policies.

The case wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court before the Biden DOJ agreed recently to remove the conditions in question and allow the states to access grant funding that had been withheld.

“I am grateful to the Biden-Harris administration for ending this unlawful immigration-related condition that has been punishing to plaintiff states over the last four years,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a written statement Tuesday.

Lamont’s office said funding from the Byrne JAG program has supported efforts including a program at the York Correctional Institution to prepare young adult women for brighter futures and opioid use disorder treatment for people in the criminal justice system.

Russell Blair can be reached at rblair@courant.com.