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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Chicago Sues Justice Department Over Rule Targeting Sanctuary Cities

CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago sued the Trump administration Monday over new Justice Department grant guidelines that would force sanctuary cities to aggressively enforce federal immigration laws or lose funding for law enforcement.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department will no longer award $385 million in grants to cities and states that refuse to help federal agents detain undocumented immigrants at local jails.

The federal government provides this money through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which aims to reduce gun violence, equip officers with body cameras, improve mental health services, and “reduce unnecessary incarceration in a manner that promotes public safety,” according to the Justice Department.

Chicago’s 46-page complaint filed against Sessions in federal court says the Justice Department’s new conditions for the Byrne Grant violate the 10th Amendment.

“These new conditions – which would give federal officials the power to enter city facilities and interrogate arrestees at will and would force the city to detain individuals longer than justified by probable cause, solely to permit federal officials to investigate their immigration status – are unauthorized and unconstitutional,” the city says.

Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance directs police officers to prioritize law enforcement and public safety rather than investigations into residents’ immigration status.

The policy seeks to ensure that any person will feel safe reporting a crime, testifying as a witness in court, or seeking help as a victim of a crime.

However, the new Byrne Grant conditions “would require Chicago (1) to detain its own residents and others at federal immigration officials’ request, in order to give the federal government a 48-hour notice window prior to an arrestee’s release; and (2) to give federal immigration officials unlimited access to local police stations and law enforcement facilities in order to interrogate any suspected noncitizen held there, effectively federalizing all of the city’s detention facilities,” the complaint says.

“The executive branch of the federal government may not arrogate to itself the powers that our Constitution reserves to Congress, on the one hand, or to state and local governments on the other,” Chicago says in its complaint. “It may not unilaterally concoct and import into the Byrne JAG program sweeping new policy conditions that were never approved (and indeed were considered and rejected) by Congress and that would federalize local jails and police stations, mandate warrantless detentions in order to investigate for federal civil infractions, sow fear in local immigrant communities, and ultimately make the people of Chicago less safe.”

The city says the Trump administration has placed it between a rock and a hard place – accept the new conditions and wipe away the trust built between law enforcement and immigrant communities, or go without critical funds that its police forces have counted on for more than a decade to provide services to Chicagoans.

Chicago expects to receive $3.2 million in 2017 for purchasing equipment. Over 300 other sanctuary jurisdictions will be forced to make a decision as to whether to comply with the grant conditions.

The Justice Department announced the new policy just two weeks after U.S. District Judge William Orrick III of the Northern District of California refused to lift an injunction blocking part of President Donald Trump’s executive order authorizing the withholding of federal funds from cities that refuse to help enforce immigration laws.

Trump signed this executive order within days of taking office, but Orrick ruled in April that “federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves.”

The president has repeatedly admonished Chicago for its high crime rate, and he even threatened to send in the National Guard to tackle the city’s gun violence. However, there is no evidence that sanctuary city policies contribute to the city’s crime rate.

Mayor Rahm Emmanuel told CNN on Monday, “We want you to come to Chicago if you believe in the American dream. By forcing us, or the police department, to choose between the values of the city and the philosophy of the police department, in community policing, I think it’s a false choice and it undermines our actual safety agenda.”

Attorney General Sessions responded to these comments in a statement Monday evening.

“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,” Sessions said.

“This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety. So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego [sic] taxpayer dollars,” the attorney general continued.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's senior legal adviser, Ed Siskel, said the city intends to seek a preliminary injunction against the Byrne Grant conditions.

The city is also represented by Jamie Gorelick with Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr in Washington.

Categories / Courts, Government, Regional

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