President Trump has long promised to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding.
In July, AG Jeff Sessions announced three new conditions for cities looking to receive certain public-safety grants. The city of Chicago sued Sessions, claiming the new requirements were forcing Chicago to choose between losing a significant amount of money or implementing policy changes that would damage the fragile relationship between immigrants and local police.
On Friday, a federal judge in Chicago ruled that Sessions does not have the authority to apply restrictions to federal grant eligibility.
“The court finds that the city has established that it would suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is not entered,” said US District Judge Harry Leinenweber. The injunction is “nationwide in scope…there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago.”
The new stipulations would have required police departments to allow DHS agents unlimited access to police stations in order to interrogate civilians who are arrested. Police departments would also have been required to provide 48-hours notice before releasing a suspected illegal.
Failing to follow these rules would have blocked more than $2 million in grants for the city of Chicago.
Judge Leinenweber's preliminary injunction effectively blocks the Justice Department from withholding grant money until there is a final determination on The City of Chicago v. Sessions lawsuit.
The Trump Administration was already forced to scale back the amount of money it sought to withhold from sanctuary cities following a previous but similar ruling by a San Francisco judge in April. According to ICE Director Thomas Homan, San Francisco and Chicago are among the four worst sanctuary cities in the country.
Chicago, like many other sanctuary cities, has a longstanding rule that information about immigration status is not shared with ICE unless a suspect is charged or convicted of serious crime. Chicago claims this policy promotes cooperation between local cops and immigrant communities.
Both ICE and the Justice Department argue that such policies are 1) illegal and 2) risk the safety of legal residents.
“The Department of Justice will continue to fully enforce existing law and to defend lawful and reasonable grant conditions that seek to protect communities and law enforcement,” said agency spokesman Devin O’Malley.
AG Jeff Sessions called Leinenweber's ruling “astounding,” citing Chicago’s unprecedented spike in violent crime as a reason it might want to rethink its sanctuary policies. “To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system."
All is not lost for Sessions. In Leinenweber’s 41-page ruling, he noted that Sessions does have the authority to impose this condition on grant eligibility: that all jurisdictions must comply with a section of the US Code that prohibits local governments from restricting communications with ICE agents “regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.”
The White House has not stated whether it plans to appeal the ruling.
Editor's note: This is certainly not the end of this affair. Trump does not give up easily and the Supreme Court is solidly conservative. I predict sanctuary cities will soon be a thing of the past.