Jeff Sessions can't withhold grant money from sanctuary cities, judge rules

Violet Powell
September 17, 2017

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled that Attorney General Jeff Sessions exceeded his authority by requiring cities to cooperate with federal immigration officials or lose grant money for fighting crime.

"It means essential resources for public safety will not come with unlawful strings attached, and the Trump justice department can not continue to coerce us into violating and abandoning our values", Emanuel said. The ruling, he added, is "nationwide in scope" with "there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago".

On Friday, a federal judge based out of Chicago ruled that the Trump administration can't pull federal funds from sanctuary cities, the latest legal development in its ongoing efforts to punish such cities.

Chicago has applied for $2.2 million in the federal grants: $1.5 million for the city and the rest for Cook County and 10 other suburbs. The ruling further frustrates an administration mired in litigation over immigration policy since Trump took office in January. Earlier this month, Sessions announced that the administration would end a program that protects young immigrants who were brought to the USA illegally as children or came with families who overstayed their visas.

The ruling is a fresh blow to US President Donald Trump, who has promised to end illegal immigration and so-called "sanctuary cities".

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Federal records show the Justice Department doled out $1 billion in Byrne JAG money to state governments, $430 million to nonprofits and $136 million directly to cities and counties previous year. "The city's leaders can not follow some laws and ignore others and reasonably expect this horrific situation to improve".

The Justice Department did get one win, however. The Trump administration, on the other hand, has accused sanctuary cities of putting politics over public safety.

Trump wrote on Twitter that a new immigration bill cannot include "chain migration", a term that advocates of limiting immigrants use to describe how new US citizens can sponsor family members in obtaining legal status. Sessions wanted local authorities to detain people in this country illegally for 48 hours, so immigration agents could apprehend them, and allow agents into local jails. Now Judge Leinenweber says Sessions was overstepping the bounds of the law.

Lawyers for the city also claimed that withholding funding creates a unsafe precedent in which the federal government could begin withholding money from jurisdictions that disagree with the president's priorities.

However, Leinenweber ruled against Chicago insofar as it objected to being required to certify its compliance with a federal law that prohibits local law enforcement from restricting the sharing of information about the citizenship status of an individual. A judge agreed that the city had a good case and issued the injunction covering the entire country.

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