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ABQ, BernCo may still get public safety grants

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary injunction against new requirements that would have prevented cities and counties from receiving a public safety grant unless they agreed to work with immigration agents.

The city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County were likely to lose about $500,000 because the county wasn’t willing to work closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, which was a new requirement this year. The Bernalillo County Commission has passed a resolution making it a “immigrant-friendly community.”

Local governments this year had to sign a certification agreeing to work with ICE in their applications for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grant. If awarded, Albuquerque police will receive $438,000 and the county will get about $61,000.

Albuquerque police had asked the county to agree to the Department of Justice’s new requirements for the Byrne JAG money and the city was told the county wouldn’t agree. The city asked for written confirmation of the refusal and the request was denied, Bill Slauson, the executive director of the police’s administrative support bureau, said in a memo last week to Chief Gorden Eden and City Administrative Officer Rob Perry.

“The thinking was, we do not want to be in a position that we are required to do certain things … that we do not want to do,” County Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley said. “It’s one of those issues that just creates divisiveness.”

The Bernalillo County Commission has passed a resolution that prohibits the use of county money or personnel to ascertain anyone’s immigration status or to apprehend individuals based on their status, unless they are required to do so by law.

The Trump administration has been trying to get local governments to share immigration-status records with federal agencies, provide 48 hours notice of a detainee’s release if immigration violations are suspected, and give federal authorities access to jails.

The county operates the Metropolitan Detention Center, where Chief Greg Rees said he won’t follow those requests unless directed to by the county.

After the Department of Justice required agencies to issue the immigration certification before receiving Byrne JAG money, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying the new requirements are unconstitutional and unlawful.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber issued a temporary injunction in the case. The judge said that Chicago was likely to succeed in the case and the city would suffer “irreparable harm” if the funding was withheld while the case was litigated.

“This injunction against … is nationwide in scope, there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago,” he wrote.