CHICAGO (CN) – The Trump administration’s efforts to punish cities for refusing to cooperate with its immigration crackdown faced a setback Friday when a federal judge reaffirmed a ruling that it cannot block cities from getting law enforcement grant funds.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber made a preliminary injunction against the administration permanent but postponed the nationwide scope of the order pending an appeal at the Seventh Circuit.
He also rejected Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ motion to dismiss Chicago’s lawsuit after finding that his office had unlawfully applied three immigration-related conditions to Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funds.
In a lawsuit filed last August, Chicago argued the attorney general’s conditions for the grant would erode trust in immigrant communities it polices and impede its ability to fight crime. If it declined the funds, the city would lose money it has earmarked to help prevent endemic gun crime in the city.
Sessions meanwhile said that Chicago and other so-called sanctuary cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, shield undocumented immigrants that are a danger to the community.
Judge Leinenweber said he was “not convinced” by that claim and added that Sessions had failed to address how his department’s conditions for the grant might harm Chicago’s efforts to maintain public safety.
“As such, this court finds that Chicago’s compliance with the conditions would damage local law enforcement’s relationship with immigrant communities and decrease the cooperation essential to prevent and solve crimes both within those communities and Chicago at large. Trust once lost is not easily restored, and as such, this is an irreparable harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law,” Leinenweber wrote.
In contrast, the judge said that Sessions had been unable to demonstrate that the federal government would suffer any harm from the injunction, as it could still crack down on illegal immigration through its enforcement efforts.
Chicago, like other sanctuary cities, does “not interfere in any way with the federal government’s lawful pursuit of its civil immigration activities, and presence in such localities will not immunize anyone to the reach of the federal government,” Leinenweber wrote.
The judge’s ruling makes permanent a preliminary injunction the Ronald Reagan appointee granted last year and adds to losses for the Trump administration in California and Pennsylvania.
The Seventh Circuit narrowed the scope of the original injunction so that it only applies to Chicago, and Leinenweber postponed the nationwide scope of his new order until the appeals court case is resolved.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the ruling a victory for the city’s residents and public safety.
“We will never be coerced or intimidated into abandoning our values as a welcoming city. Welcoming immigrants, refugees and dreamers from every corner of the globe is part of Chicago’s history, and part of our future, no matter which way the political winds are blowing in Washington,” he said in a prepared statement.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.