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Denver Gets Federal Funding Previously Withheld Over 'Sanctuary City' Conflict

DENVER (CBS4/AP) -- The City and County of Denver received almost three quarters of a million dollars from the federal government after a successful legal rebuke of the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to penalize several American cities for their lack of cooperation in immigration enforcement.

In a letter dated Oct. 10, the office of Attorney General Jeff Sessions approved Denver's request for funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program for the fiscal year 2017 -- which ended in September of 2017, more than a year ago.

The letter cited $423,861 as the amount granted to the City and County of Denver.

The office of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, which distributed copies of the letter to the media, said an additional $270,674 was coming in as part of the state of Colorado's JAG award, making Denver's total award $694,535.

The grant money had been withheld by the DOJ over the administration's disagreement with local jurisdictions that refused to fully cooperate with new immigration policy.

In January of 2017, President Trump signed several executive orders regarding immigration, including one that targeted communities -- 'sanctuary cities' -- that limited their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Denver was among the 23 cities and states (including San Francisco, Chicago, Oregon, and California) that stood their ground in court against the new policies, specifically against the legality of the government to withhold the grant funds as a form of coercion.

In January of this year, with the litigation still in the appeals process, the Justice Department threatened to demand refunds of the 2016 fiscal grant money given to the cities, as well as further legal action.

But in August, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled President Trump's executive order was unconstitutional.

"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 Friday. "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."

"I am pleased the Justice Department has decided to award funds that are needed to help Denver police keep our streets safe," added Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. "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."

The JAG funding supports the Denver Police Department's ShotSpotter gunfire detection system, anti-trafficking efforts, and crime victim support programs, the mayor's office stated.

Other cities and states involved in the legal action, however, are still waiting for their checks.

The city of Chicago, in fact, filed suit against the Justice Department on Friday. Chicago stands to lose millions of dollars in grant funding due to the DOJ's enforcement requirements and Pres. Trump's executive order.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that Chicago "will not be bullied."

A message seeking comment from the Justice Department wasn't immediately returned.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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