Connecticut Loses ‘Sanctuary Cities' Funding Fight

Connecticut’s attorney general is accusing the president of holding hostage millions of dollars critical to local law enforcement because he doesn’t like the state’s immigration policy.

Connecticut sued the federal government in 2017.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called the policy an attack on Connecticut and public safety.

“We rely on this money.  This is funding from the federal government that we have received for years and years and years,” said Tong.

Tong said sometime in 2018 that money stopped coming to Connecticut, about $1.5 million a year in law enforcement funding called Byrne or JAG grants.  That’s when the Department of Justice began withholding funds from states that it said were uncooperative with federal immigration officials.  Connecticut and six other states sued the federal government over the policy. 

“We think this is an overt and obvious retaliation against the state of Connecticut and it’s an attack on the people of this state,” Tong explained.

Wednesday, a federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration, saying the U.S. Government has every right to impose conditions on states receiving money.

“Our values are clear.  We want to make sure New Haven is a place where everyone feels welcome and safe and has the ability to contact the police without fear of retribution,” said Justin Elicker, mayor of New Haven.

Elicker said New Haven used their Byrne grant for at-risk youth. 

“I think that it’s important that funding continues to come to cities like New Haven and that our city isn’t punished in this way that is totally out of touch with what is important to protect our residents,” said Elicker.

Tong said the money was also used for programs that tackled gun violence and the opioid crisis.

Last year, the state strengthened the Trust Act, a law that limits information sharing with ICE and prohibits state law enforcement from detaining someone wanted by immigration agents unless they have been found guilty of a serious felony.

“The president doesn’t like those laws and he wants to change them.  He has no right to change those laws and he has no right to withhold money that we need and depend on to keep people safe because he has a different world view,” said Tong.

“This latest court ruling is pretty clear that law enforcement will lose critical federal funding which enables us to do our job and keep our communities safe if we continue to function as a sanctuary state. This state could lose millions in federal funding.  Once again the law enforcement officers of this state are put in the middle of the federal government and the state government,” the Connecticut Fraternal Order of Police told NBC Connecticut News in a statement.

Tong said he’s in talks with the other states that are part of the lawsuit and leaving every option on the table, including taking their fight to the US Supreme Court.  In Wednesday’s ruling the appeals court pointed out that the Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the federal government maintains broad power over states when it comes to immigration policies.

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