Judge Double Downs on Chicago Sanctuary-City Ruling

CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday denied Chicago’s request to reconsider a decision that only partially blocked new Justice Department rules intended to penalize sanctuary cities, and which may cost the city millions in federal funding to fight crime.

In July, U.S. Attorney General Jeff 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.

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.

But Sessions changed the conditions of this grant in a manner that “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,” according to a lawsuit filed by Chicago in August.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber issued a nationwide injunction against the new requirements in September, agreeing with the city that Sessions exceeded his authority by tying these two conditions to the Byrne grant.

However, Leinenweber ruled against Chicago insofar as it objected to being required to certify its compliance with a federal law that prohibits local police from restricting the sharing of information about an individual’s citizenship status.

The Justice Department immediately appealed Leinenweber’s decision to the Seventh Circuit.

Meanwhile, Chicago asked the judge to reconsider his ruling on the compliance issue based on its receipt of a letter from the Justice Department dated Oct.11, 2017, stating that Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance makes it ineligible for Byrne JAG funding. The ordinance protects undocumented immigrants from being held for federal authorities after interacting with city police, unless they are a wanted criminal or have been convicted of a serious crime.

The Justice Department letter, however, also says that the finding does not represent a final determination on the issue, and asks for the city’s response.

“Nothing in the DOJ Letter contravenes the court’s prior ruling,” Leinenweber wrote Thursday in a 31-page opinion.

Although Chicago and the Department of Justice clearly have different interpretations of federal immigration law and municipalities’ required conformity with that law, the letter does “not change the Court’s facial analysis of the Tenth Amendment challenge” brought by the city, the judge said.

Leinenweber also denied the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ motion to intervene in the case, finding that its 1,400 member cities’ rights will not be harmed if the conference simply provides its viewpoint as amicus curiae rather than as an intervenor.

“The nationwide injunction currently in force is sufficient to protect the interests of the Conference’s members and, regardless, a Seventh Circuit decision overturning the nationwide injunction would not suffice to show the potential impairment necessary for intervention as of right,” Leinenweber said. “An appellate judgment in the DOJ’s favor that Chicago lacks standing for a nationwide injunction will not preclude or impair the Conference’s ability to bring a subsequent action for a nationwide injunction enjoining the three conditions at issue.”

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