‘Sanctuary’ Court Fight Still Blocks U.S. Anticrime Aid

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As Attorney General Jeff Sessions refuses to distribute Byrne Justice Assistance grants to states and localities to exact punishment against about 30 “sanctuary” districts that have stymied the Trump administration’s deportation efforts, Sessions’ war is catching hundreds of other agencies in the crossfire even though their jurisdictions don’t have any sanctuary policies, BuzzFeed News reports. Police officers, sheriffs, and state officials said they’ve been forced to reduce staff, curtail programs or not purchase equipment — in some cases suspending criminal investigations — because Sessions is sitting on their money. Ironically, the hardest hit are lower-population counties and states, where officials share Sessions’ hardline views on immigration and drugs. Owing to their smaller tax bases, these areas lack rainy day funds to backfill the overdue grants.

The impacts are piling up in Republican strongholds like Nebraska, where state officials say paychecks for highway patrol troopers and drug detectives will soon be in jeopardy, and other programs to reduce crime have been cut. Drug task forces are being depleted in the western U.S., where officials say they’ve been forced to shelve drug investigations despite a national opioid crisis. Law enforcement officials said they resent being punished for a dispute they’re not involved in, because they actively cooperate with federal immigration agents. Jonathan Thompson of the National Sheriffs’ Association said sheriffs’ offices are struggling in Oklahoma, Arizona, Georgia, and New York. One jurisdiction can’t replace squad cars, he said, while another had to remove three deputies from a drug task force. A federal judge in Chicago struck down DOJ restrictions on federal grants in September. Sessions asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to overturn that decision, but that court ruled against him on Thursday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel immediately called on DOJ to hand over grant money to Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports, but the Justice Department did not  announce its next steps.

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