ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL SUES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FOR WITHHOLDING ILLINOIS LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNDING
Raoul Sues Federal Government for Withholding $6.6 Million in Byrne JAG Funding
Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today filed a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General William Barr for violating federal law by placing illegal conditions on funding for Illinois law enforcement and criminal justice initiatives from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program.
In his complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Raoul alleges that Barr has exceeded his authority under the Constitution and federal law by requiring Illinois law enforcement to actively participate in federal immigration matters in order to receive Byrne JAG program funding. The conditions imposed seek to require Illinois authorities to allow federal immigration agents access to undocumented immigrants in state custody and to provide notification when those immigrants are scheduled to be released.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and multiple other courts across the country have declared much of Barr’s position unlawful. Raoul alleges in the complaint that Barr is continuing a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy of interfering with the ability of Illinois and its municipalities to set law enforcement policies and protect their communities.
“As Attorney General Barr is likely aware, it is unconstitutional to place immigration-related conditions on funding for Illinois law enforcement,” Raoul said, “This lawsuit will help ensure that this important funding is not used as a bargaining chip as the administration continues to push its illegal and discriminatory immigration policies.”
This is the second lawsuit the Attorney General’s office has filed after the federal government attempted to place illegal conditions on Byrne JAG funding. The office sued the DOJ in 2018 after the department first placed illegal immigration-related conditions on the state’s 2017 Byrne JAG funding. The Attorney General’s office secured the funds regardless of the conditions. The federal government is again attempting to impose the same conditions on the state’s share of Byrne JAG funding, while also adding two new illegal requirements.
Raoul’s complaint asks the court to declare that the DOJ is unlawfully depriving the state of funding for critical law enforcement programs by mandating that Illinois comply with federal immigration initiatives as a condition for receiving the funds, and to compel the DOJ to immediately provide the funding without any unlawful conditions.
Raoul argues that Barr denied Illinois’ Byrne JAG funds as a means of opposing the Illinois TRUST Act, a 2017 state law that encourages cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Raoul’s lawsuit asks the court to declare that the Illinois TRUST Act complies with federal law, and that Barr may not continue withholding funds to which the state is entitled under federal law.
Additionally, Raoul argues that federal law entitles Illinois to Byrne JAG funds as long as the state uses them to achieve one of the criminal justice goals listed in federal law. The state has long satisfied that requirement and has received Byrne JAG funds without incident every year since the program’s creation in 2005. In recent years, Illinois has used Byrne JAG funds to fight human trafficking and to support drug diversion courts that seek to prevent recidivism by helping offenders overcome addiction.
Byrne JAG grants provide an annual source of funding used by law enforcement for innovative programs to protect communities, prevent crime, and support victims and witnesses. The federal government is effectively withholding support for these critical programs as punishment for Illinois policies that encourage cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Illinois is entitled to $6.6 million in Byrne JAG funds for fiscal year 2018.
Special Litigation Bureau Chief Jeanne Witherspoon and Assistant Attorneys General Darren Kinkead and Jeff VanDam are handling the case for Raoul’s Public Interest Division.