Oregon Governor Brown and Attorney General Rosenblum Sue Federal Government Over Denial of Federal Grant Money

November 9, 2018
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Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today filed a lawsuit against U.S. President Donald J. Trump and acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker asserting that the federal government should not be permitted to force the State of Oregon to cooperate with their federal immigration priorities. The case focuses on the United States Department of Justice’s (U.S. DOJ) attempt to force Oregon to cooperate with federal immigration policies, using the threat of withholding federal law enforcement grants, called Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (“Byrne grants”).

The Byrne grants are set aside by Congress to pay for important community law enforcement programs around the country. Congress did not tie them to immigration enforcement. However, despite the fact that Oregon qualifies for the grants, U.S. DOJ has failed to provide the money to Oregon, citing Oregon sanctuary laws that limit the state’s participation in federal immigration enforcement. Last year, Oregon received more than $2 million in grant money, which was mainly used to fund Oregon’s extremely effective state and county drug courts.

“For years, these grants have provided millions of dollars to law enforcement in Oregon. But, suddenly these public safety funds have been withdrawn because Oregon will not submit to U.S. DOJ’s demand that Oregon participate in its immigration enforcement efforts,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “As we have seen, these efforts have frequently been both inhumane and dangerous. Our police and other local law enforcement need to be able to protect all residents of our state—regardless of where they were born or their immigration status. We are all safer when all of our residents are not afraid to report crime to the police.”

“Oregon voters sent a clear message to the Trump administration this week: Oregonians support our sanctuary laws,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “The Trump administration’s attempts to withhold public safety dollars from our state is unjust, dangerous, and unconstitutional. All Oregonians, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to have the full protection of our law enforcement. We will not stand for this administration’s attempts to strong-arm our state by withholding critical public safety dollars.”

The lawsuit alleges that two federal statutes that prevent the state from imposing some limits on employee communications with federal immigration authorities usurp state power and violate the United States Constitution. It also alleges that U.S. DOJ’s decision to impose conditions that Congress did not approve intrudes on congressional power.

The Governor and the Attorney General also invited the City of Portland to join in the lawsuit.

“The City of Portland’s commitment to public safety is demonstrated by the resources we put behind those needs. The Byrne JAG grant has been a critical source of funding for programs that benefit the most marginalized members of our community,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “The City of Portland maintains that it is and has been in compliance with federal law, making the denial of federal funds to support our community unjust and unwarranted. We look forward to obtaining appropriate relief from the judicial system.”

Since 1987, Oregon law has prioritized public safety by limiting the extent to which the state participates in federal immigration enforcement actions, thereby increasing the public’s trust in Oregon’s law enforcement agencies. Portland Police Bureau Policy specifically prohibits taking official police actions based only on immigration or citizenship status. The goal of the lawsuit filed today is to insure that the federal government cannot use Oregon resources to advance its poorly-considered immigration policies.