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Denver Awarded its FY17 JAG Funding Following Legal Showdown with Department of Justice

DENVER – The City and County of Denver has been awarded its Fiscal Year 2017 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funding, following its withholding for more than a year (see attached letter). Denver participated in litigation filed in other jurisdictions to challenge the Department of Justice’s withholding of this grant money to so-called “sanctuary cities.” With the success of the legal challenge, and with the further assistance of the US Conference of Mayors, Denver is being awarded $423,861 in FY17 JAG funding, as well as $270,674 as a sub-grantee of the State of Colorado’s JAG award, for a total of $694,535 in funding.

“From the beginning, we have said that if the Department of Justice attempted to withhold federal funding from Denver based on our immigration policies, we would fight them. We did, and the federal courts have agreed with us,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “This is affirmation that the steps we have taken to support and protect our immigrant community are within the bounds of federal law, and that the actions taken by the White House and DOJ were just an attempt to get cities and states to bend to their will.”

“We have consistently maintained that our policies comply with federal law and promote public safety,” said Kristin Bronson, City Attorney for Denver. “These funds support critical public safety tools, and our policies promote trust between our immigrant community and safety officials. We will continue to defend Denver’s right to set its own public safety priorities.”

"I am pleased the Justice Department has decided to award funds that are needed to help Denver police keep our streets safe,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said.  "The courts have repeatedly declared unlawful the federal administration's strong-arm tactics jeopardizing local public safety funding.  The release of these funds as authorized by Congress is overdue but welcome."

In affidavits submitted in support of cases filed by both the City of San Francisco and State of California, Denver defend its policies, including the Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act, in that they did not violate 8 U.S.C. section 1373, which was used by the DOJ as justification for withholding funding. Courts that have addressed this issue have universally ruled that DOJ may not withhold Byrne JAG funds based on a city’s immigration policies. Most recently, the City of Evanston, Illinois and the US Conference of Mayors successfully obtained an injunction that prevents DOJ from withholding these funds to members of the US Conference of Mayors, including Denver.

JAG funding is used by the city for critical law enforcement functions, including technology that enables police officers to respond more quickly and accurately to gun violence through the department’s subscription for the ShotSpotter System, as well as support for crime victims and anti-trafficking efforts, such as the Crime Victim Program in the Denver District Attorney’s Office.