Madigan sues Feds for withholding legal funding
November 2, 2018

Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violating Federal law by refusing to release $6.5 million in funding for Illinois law enforcement and criminal justice initiatives from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program.

Law enforcement uses the Byrne JAG funds allocated to Illinois for innovative programs to protect communities, prevent crime, and support victims and witnesses. The DOJ is withholding funding for these programs as punishment for Illinois’s policies that encourage cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities.   

In her complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Madigan alleges DOJ and Sessions are exceeding their authority under the U.S. Constitution and laws by using the Byrne JAG program funding to require Illinois law enforcement to participate actively in federal immigration work, even though the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently declared DOJ’s position unlawful. By doing so, Madigan alleges, DOJ and Sessions are interfering with the State’s and municipalities’ abilities to set their own law enforcement policies to protect their communities.

Madigan’s complaint asks the court to declare that 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 DOJ to disburse the State’s funding immediately.

“Withholding millions of dollars that Illinois law enforcement depends on to prevent crime senselessly jeopardizes the safety and welfare of Illinois residents,” Madigan said.

Madigan argued that Sessions and DOJ have targeted Illinois explicitly to deny Byrne JAG funds because of the Federal administration’s opposition to the Illinois TRUST Act, a 2017 State law that encourages cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities. Madigan’s lawsuit asks the court to declare that the Illinois TRUST Act complies with Federal law and that Sessions and DOJ may not continue withholding funds to which the State is entitled under Federal law. 

In addition, Madigan argued Federal law entitles Illinois to Byrne JAG funds so long as the State uses them to achieve one of eight criminal justice goals articulated in Federal statute. The State long has satisfied this statutory standard, having received Byrne JAG funds every year since the program’s creation in 2005. In recent years, Illinois has used Byrne JAG funds to fight human trafficking and support drug diversion courts that seek to prevent recidivism by helping offenders overcome addiction.

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