California, San Francisco sue over sanctuary restrictions

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The state of California and city of San Francisco said Monday that they are suing the U.S. Department of Justice over President Donald Trump's sanctuary city restrictions on public safety grants.

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and City Attorney Dennis Herrera, both Democrats, made the announcement, turning California into the first state to challenge the administration on its policy of denying some public safety funds to sanctuary cities and counties that limit cooperation with enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.

San Francisco also filed its own federal lawsuit Friday regarding federal restrictions on the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, which both men said provide for a range of crime fighting and crime prevention programs. They said California could lose $28 million and San Francisco could lose $1.5 million in annual funding.

"It's a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement," Becerra said.

"This is a backdoor attempt to force state and local governments to carry out federal immigration enforcement," said Herrera.

Chicago filed a similar lawsuit last week, arguing that the Trump administration's bid to withhold public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities is illegal.

In response, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said the Trump administration "will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens."

Jim Brulte, chairman of the California GOP, criticized the lawsuits, saying that "allowing felons, allowing repeat felons to roam free for political purposes is bad public policy."

Supporters have said the sanctuary protections promote overall public safety by allowing immigrants who are in the country illegally to report crimes without fear of federal deportation.

Becerra and Herrera are strong supporters of sanctuary protections, which largely prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Opponents have said people who are in the country illegally do not deserve the protections because they should not be in the U.S.

The California Legislature is considering a measure nicknamed the "sanctuary state bill" that would limit state and local police from cooperating with federal immigration agents. Supporters of the legislation, SB54, have said it rebukes the president for his crackdown on illegal immigration.

The Senate passed the measure earlier this year, sending it to the Assembly where it still requires a vote. It would also need approval from Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who has said the bill needs changes but has declined to specify what he wants altered.

San Francisco sued the Trump administration in January over the president's move to cut funding to immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities" via executive order. A federal judge temporarily halted the executive order as the lawsuit progresses.

Becerra said he was filing the state's lawsuit on behalf of smaller California cities and counties that may not have the resources to challenge the U.S. administration.