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Case Name City of Providence v. Sessions IM-RI-0003
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-00437-JJM-LDA ( D.R.I. )
State/Territory Rhode Island
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
On August 9, 2018, two Rhode Island cities filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, challenging the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) policy of conditioning federal funding on compliance with immigration-related conditions. The cities argued that the new ... read more >
On August 9, 2018, two Rhode Island cities filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, challenging the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) policy of conditioning federal funding on compliance with immigration-related conditions. The cities argued that the new conditions forced them to make an impossible choice: accept unlawful conditions that undermined their ability to protect their communities or forfeit funding crucial to protecting their communities. Accordingly, the cities argued that the new conditions violated the separation of powers, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Tenth Amendment, the Spending Clause, and also constituted ultra vires conduct. The cities sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Along with the complaint, the cities filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and sought a writ of mandamus directing the DOJ to immediately disburse the cities' fiscal year 2017 award funding. The case was assigned to Judge John J. McConnell, Jr.

The cities, Providence and Central Falls, were previous recipients of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant (Byrne JAG). The cities argued that the new immigration-related conditions were not relevant to Byrne JAG’s purpose, which was to provide funding for states and local government in support of local activities related to criminal justice. The program, according to the complaint, was designed to create flexibility in federal funding to allow localities to address their particular law enforcement needs.

But, on July 25, 2017, the DOJ announced the imposition of new immigration-related conditions on Fiscal Year 2017 Byrne JAG funds. The conditions required localities to: (1) provide federal immigration enforcement agents with access to the localities’ correctional facilities (“access condition”), (2) provide federal immigration officials with notice before an individual’s scheduled custody release (“notice condition”), and (3) certify compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373 (“Section 1373 condition”). Specifically, § 1373 prohibited localities from restricting their officials from communicating with federal immigration officials regarding the immigration status of any individual. The cities argued that these new conditions were an “attempt to force states and localities to forsake their own policy judgments and aid in federal civil immigration enforcement.”

But, citing City of Chicago v. Sessions, the complaint argued that the Byrne JAG program did not empower the DOJ to impose such conditions. As a result, the complaint further argued, the DOJ’s conditions violated the separation of powers between Congress and the Executive. The cities also argued that the conditions violated statutory and constitutional anti-commandeering principles by compelling local governments to enforce federal immigration laws. Because the conditions were "ambiguous as to what state and local governments must do to be in compliance and are not germane to the local criminal justice purposes of the Byrne JAG program," the cities argued they also violated the spending clause. Finally, the cities claimed the conditions violated the APA because they were imposed without any reasoning or opportunity for local governments to respond to them.

The cities filed an amended complaint on November 9, 2018. In addition to its previous claims, the new complaint further argued that on June 28, 2018, the DOJ announced new immigration-related conditions on four public safety grants for FY2018. The complaint alleged that these conditions were essentially "re-packaged versions" of the previous three conditions, as well as a new condition prohibiting the public disclosure of any federal law enforcement information that might hide undocumented immigrants from federal authorities (“gag-order condition”).

On December 21, 2018, the cities filed a motion for partial summary judgment on their claims relating to the FY2017 grant conditions. They also requested a permanent injunction enjoining the DOJ from imposing the access, notice, and § 1373 conditions on the cities.

On March 2, 2019, the government filed a cross-motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, a motion for partial summary judgment with respect to the plaintiffs' claims relating to the FY2017 grant conditions.

On June 10, 2019, Judge McConnell granted the cities' motion for partial summary judgment. He concluded that the Attorney General exceeded his statutory authority in imposing the challenged conditions. Thus, he granted the cities' request for a writ of mandamus directing the DOJ to immediately disburse their FY2017 award funds and reissue FY2017 award letters without the challenged conditions. He also directed the parties to draft a permanent injunction. 385 F.Supp.3d 160.

On June 24, 2019, the government filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's June 10 order with respect to the portion of the order directing the DOJ to reissue the FY2017 award letters absent the challenged conditions. Judge McConnell granted this motion on June 27.

On June 27, Judge McConnell also issued an order permanently enjoining the DOJ from imposing the notice, access, and § 1373 conditions on any Rhode Island recipient of a Byrne JAG award for FY2017. It also directed the DOJ to disburse the cities' FY2017 awards.

On June 27, the cities also filed a motion for partial summary judgment on their claims relating to the FY2018 grant conditions.

On August 9, 2019, the government appealed Judge McConnell's June 10 ruling to the First Circuit (docket #19-1802).

On August 12, 2019, the government filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment with respect to the plaintiffs' claims relating to the FY2018 grant conditions.

On November 14, 2019, Judge McConnell granted the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment on their FY2018 claims. He found that the Attorney General had again gone beyond his powers by imposing conditions not authorized by Congress. He granted a writ of mandamus directing the DOJ to immediately disburse the FY2018 funds and directed the parties to draft a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction enjoining the DOJ from imposing the FY2018 conditions. 415 F.Supp.3d 302.

On January 10, 2020, Judge McConnell issued an order permanently enjoining the DOJ from enforcing the challenged conditions on the cities for FY2018 and mandating the disbursement of the cities' FY2018 awards.

On March 10, 2020, the government appealed Judge McConnell's November 14 ruling to the First Circuit (docket #20-1296).

On March 24, 2020, the First Circuit issued a decision affirming the District Court's June 10, 2019 grant of summary judgment relating to the FY2017 conditions. The First Circuit agreed that the Attorney General, and by extension, the DOJ, lacked statutory authority to impose the challenged conditions. 954 F.3d 23.

The case is ongoing.

Virginia Weeks - 12/01/2018
Sam Kulhanek - 03/25/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Federalism (including 10th Amendment)
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Funding
Public assistance grants
Immigration/Border
Sanctuary city/state
Undocumented immigrants - state and local regulation
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Two Rhode Island cities.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Mandamus
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2019 - n/a
Filed 08/09/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Docket(s)
1:18-cv-437 (D.R.I.)
IM-RI-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-RI-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint [ECF# 15]
IM-RI-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 30] (385 F.Supp.3d 160) (D.R.I.)
IM-RI-0003-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/10/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Partial Judgment of Injunction and Writ of Mandamus [ECF# 35] (D.R.I.)
IM-RI-0003-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/27/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 47] (415 F.Supp.3d 302) (D.R.I.)
IM-RI-0003-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/14/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment of Injunction and Writ of Mandamus [ECF# 48] (D.R.I.)
IM-RI-0003-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (954 F.3d 23)
IM-RI-0003-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/24/2020
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Almond, Lincoln D. (D.R.I.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-9000
McConnell, John James Jr. (D.R.I.) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0003 | IM-RI-0003-0004 | IM-RI-0003-0005 | IM-RI-0003-0006 | IM-RI-0003-9000
Selya, Bruce Marshall (FISCR, D.R.I., First Circuit) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0007
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dana, Jeffery (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0001 | IM-RI-0003-0002 | IM-RI-0003-9000
DiSanto, Megan K. Maciasz (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0001 | IM-RI-0003-0002 | IM-RI-0003-9000
Hemond, Nicholas J. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0001 | IM-RI-0003-0002 | IM-RI-0003-9000
Jerzyk, Matthew T. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0001 | IM-RI-0003-0002 | IM-RI-0003-9000
Schaub, Etie-Lee Z. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0001 | IM-RI-0003-0002 | IM-RI-0003-9000
Weber, Robert F. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-0001 | IM-RI-0003-0002 | IM-RI-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cunha, Zachary A. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-9000
Mauler, Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-RI-0003-9000

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