The federal government is withholding millions of dollars in grants from local law enforcement agencies, many rural, in states or communities that have failed to meet some U.S. Department of Justice immigration policy requirements. One reporter writes about how that has affected some law enforcement agencies in rural Colorado.

Since 2017, Colorado has been awarded just over $6 million in grants for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, but has only been able to disburse about $537,000 of the funding. In 2017 and 2018, rural law enforcement agencies requested about $2.3 million of those funds; the DOJ hasn't yet posted info about 2019 recipients, Shannon Mullane reports for The Durango Herald near the southwest corner of Colorado.

The delay in disbursing Byrne funds "really disproportionately impacts these smaller, rural communities," Joe Thome, director of the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, told Mullane. "Smaller, rural jurisdictions look forward to the availability of this money every year, simply because they don’t have the budgets ... to be able to support the modernization of their agencies." Law enforcement agencies use the funding for everything from equipment and staffing to community programs.

"In 2017, the Department of Justice said law enforcement agencies must meet two immigration-related requirements to receive funds" from the Byrne program, Mullane reports. The DOJ "requires states, communities and individual agencies to notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security 48 hours before releasing undocumented immigrants and to allow DHS officials into jails to question inmates about their immigration status. If recipients – like courts, correctional facilities and law enforcement agencies – do not meet those requirements, they may not receive funds."

Multiple states and communities have sued the DOJ since 2017 over the immigration-related stipulations. Colorado sued this March, arguing that withholding the funds violates the 10th Amendment, which says the federal government can't compel state and local officials to enforce federal law, Mullane reports.

Lawrence Pacheco, communications director for the Colorado Attorney General's Office, told Mullane that he thinks the state will win its suit, since courts have sided against the DOJ in every Byrne ruling so far. "Federal courts already found the two requirements unlawful in cases brought by Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Evanston, Illinois," Mullane reports.