Chicago Accuses Sessions of Flouting Sanctuary-City Ruling

CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago claims U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions still refuses to release millions in federal policing funds because the city will not cooperate with the Trump administration’s immigration policies, despite a nationwide injunction declaring such withholding unconstitutional.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Justice Department has still not released 2017 federal funds earmarked for law enforcement to Chicago under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, and the city has not received an award letter for 2018 because its “welcoming city” policies do not align with the Trump administration’s demands that it help the federal government detain undocumented immigrants, according to a complaint filed Friday in Chicago federal court.

“Chicago has repeatedly beaten the Trump Justice Department in court, and Chicago is proud to fight the Trump Justice Department again,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Instead of inviting lawsuits and attacking immigrants, the Trump DOJ should immediately stop placing illegal conditions on these grants, quit withholding grant funding, and allow Chicago to use these grants to improve public safety. We will not be bullied, intimidated or coerced into making a false choice between our values as a welcoming city and the principles of community policing.”

Chicago says the Justice Department imposed the same policy conditions on 2018 Byrne Grants that federal courts already ruled unlawful.

“The law has not changed since this court ruled: the federal executive may not arrogate power that the Constitution reserves to Congress on the one hand, or to state and local governments on the other,” the 45-page lawsuit states. “Yet the attorney general does just that by again imposing on the Byrne JAG formula grant program policy conditions that were never approved by Congress and that would federalize local jails, mandate warrantless detentions for civil infractions, sow fear in local immigrant communities, undermine local law, and make the people of Chicago less safe.”

The city claims it has not received $2 million in 2017 Byrne Grant funds, despite its victories in court, or $3 million owed for a 2017 COPS Hiring award.

This year, according to the city, “the attorney general once again seeks to countermand local policies that foster crucial trust between police and immigrant communities, on pain of denying Chicago crucial funds that provide lifesaving equipment to Chicago police officers and critical services to Chicago residents.”

“Once again, his sole justification is his disagreement with Chicago’s policy choices. He does so in the face of this court’s explicit ruling last year that his conditions are unlawful,” the complaint states.

Last year, Sessions announced the Justice Department would no longer award $385 million in grants to cities and states that refuse to help federal agents detain undocumented immigrants at local jails. Chicago sued over the move last fall.

The federal government provides the money through the Byrne Grant, which aims to reduce gun violence, equip officers with body cameras, improve mental health services, and reduce unnecessary incarceration.

Federal courts in Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have all declared unconstitutional Sessions’ attempt to financially punish so-called sanctuary cities for refusing to enforce federal immigration laws by withholding federal funds for policing.

When the Justice Department appealed the Chicago ruling, the Seventh Circuit used strong language in affirming a nationwide injunction against the department.

“If the executive branch can determine policy, and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without the authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, [the Constitution’s] check against tyranny is forsaken,” U.S. Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

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