The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, on Wednesday, overturned a lower court's ruling ordering the administration to release funding to New York City and seven states - New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island.
The 2nd Circuit said the plain language of relevant laws make clear that the U.S. attorney general can impose conditions on states and municipalities receiving money. And it noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly observed that the federal government maintains broad power over states when it comes to immigration policies.
The 2nd Circuit three-judge panel said in a decision written by Judge Reena Raggi that "while mindful of the respect owed to our sister circuits, we cannot agree that the federal government must be enjoined from imposing the challenged conditions on the federal grants here at issue."
"These conditions help the federal government enforce national immigration laws and policies supported by successive Democratic and Republican administrations," the appeals court added.
For its part, the U.S. Justice Department praised the decision, issuing a statement calling it a "major victory for Americans" and saying it recognizes that the attorney general has authority to ensure that grant recipients are not thwarting federal law enforcement priorities.
The department also added that the ruling's effect would be limited because other courts have ruled the other way, giving the plaintiffs in the New York case the opportunity to point to those as reasons to ignore the new conditions.
Cody Wofsy, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the decision a "real outlier," saying he believed the 2nd Circuit was the nation's first court to side with the Trump administration on the issue.
Wofsy also said under the Constitution's federalism principles and the 10th Amendment, states and municipalities "are entitled to decline to become part of the administration's deportation force."
The appeals rulings pertain to the issuance of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Created in 2006, it is the vehicle through which Congress annually dispenses over $250 million in federal funding for state and local criminal justice efforts.