On Monday, the Department of Justice awarded almost $100 million in grants to fund new three-year officer positions at law enforcement agencies across the United States. 80 percent of the winners complied with a set of standards recommended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that focuses on cracking down on undocumented immigration.
The grant, called the "COPS Hiring Program," is part of the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), which deals with community policing. Altogether, the DOJ awarded $98,495,397 to 179 agencies, which will fund 802 new officer positions.
The program has been around for many years but shifted direction under the Trump administration. When Attorney General Loretta Lynch used it to award $119 million in grants in 2016, she gave extra points to agencies that prioritized building trust between police officers and communities, as per the recommendations outlined in the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Sessions, however, has had a different aim. He gave preferential treatment to agencies that agreed to both notify the government at least 48 hours before letting an undocumented immigrant leave a detention facility and to give the Department of Homeland Security access to these facilities.
"Today, the Justice Department announced that 80 percent of this year’s COPS Hiring Program grantees have agreed to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in their detention facilities," said Sessions in a statement. "I applaud their commitment to the rule of law and to ending violent crime, including violent crime stemming from illegal immigration. I continue to encourage every jurisdiction in America to collaborate with federal law enforcement and help us make this country safer."
Agencies also won extra points if they prioritized combatting violent crime and helping with homeland security.
The list — which has been released in full here — includes grants to the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands, as well as the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth. The biggest winners are Florida and Texas, with 139 and 98 officers funded, respectively. Georgia, California, New Jersey, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio all received funding for 31-43 officers. Sessions' home state of Alabama also did well, receiving 19 grants.
Notably, although the DOJ overwhelmingly chose jurisdictions that complied with Sessions' anti-immigrant agenda, it also awarded grants to some sanctuary cities. Sacramento received 15 grants, for example, while Chicago got 25.
In September, Chicago successfully sued the DOJ after the department made funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs conditional on whether or not a community obeyed federal immigration enforcement officers. The court case was a victory for sanctuary cities and could possibly have predisposed Sessions to be slightly less doctrinal in choosing the COPS Hiring Program grant recipients. Still, 80 percent is no small number, and it's hard not to see the awarding of these grants as an overall victory for Sessions' agenda.
As attorney general, Sessions has largely focused on increasing border security and cracking down on undocumented immigration. He's an advocate for President Trump's notorious border wall, continues to erroneously link upticks in crime to undocumented immigration trends in speeches, and supports creating a database to store lists of crimes committed by undocumented folks.
"Cities and states that cooperate with federal law enforcement make all of us safer by helping remove dangerous criminals from our communities," Sessions said on Monday.
Ron Davis, former director of the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services, told BuzzFeed News that Sessions' agenda will not make the nation safer. Instead, he argued, it will "create fear in communities you need more information from. It makes communities less safe because people will be afraid to report crime in fear of deportation."