In 'Sanctuary Cities' Lawsuit Against Trump Administration, Chicago Wins
By John Byrne
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on President Donald Trump's Justice Department Thursday to hand over grant money to Chicago, after a panel of federal judges said the funds can't be withheld from so-called sanctuary cities.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a nationwide injunction prohibiting Attorney General Jeff Sessions from requiring cities give immigration agents access to undocumented immigrants in their lock-ups in order to get certain public safety grants.
Emanuel quickly called an afternoon news conference at City Hall to trumpet his latest win in the city's lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from withholding the money.
"The Trump Justice Department could actually say 'OK, we're going to go forward with these grants, and let's fight the case out in court,' " Emanuel said, flanked by a crowd of aldermen and city lawyers. "But they refuse to give municipalities like Chicago and other cities around the country the resources to fight crime and gun violence, because they think fighting us on the principle of being a sanctuary, welcoming city, is more important than helping the police departments get the technology they need to do a better job in public safety."
And Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin applauded the court decision, saying Trump's policy pressured "local communities to join in the president's mass deportation agenda."
The judges' strongly worded ruling stated that America's Founding Fathers understood a concentration of power "threatens individual liberty" and established the separation of powers as "a bulwark against such tyranny."
"The attorney general in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement," the ruling states. "But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds."
Justice Department spokesperson Devin O'Malley said in a statement the agency "believes it exercised its authority, given by Congress, to attach conditions to Byrne JAG grants that promote cooperation with federal immigration authorities when the jurisdiction has an illegal alien who has committed a crime in their custody."
He said they "will continue to fight to carry out the Department's commitment to the rule of law, protecting public safety, and keeping criminal aliens off the streets to further perpetrate crimes."
The legal fight is largely symbolic for Chicago because the amount of money at stake is a small fraction of the city's police budget. The city has applied for $1.5 million in Byrne grants. Other local municipalities and Cook County have requested about $800,000 more as part of the same application. The city wants to use the money to expand ShotSpotter gunfire detection systems.
But a high-profile court challenge helps Emanuel bolster his anti-Trump credentials in an overwhelmingly Democratic city with a big immigrant population heading into his 2019 re-election bid.
Emanuel sued Sessions last summer to stop the immigration rules from being applied to the grants, and U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber granted a nationwide injunction. The Justice Department appealed the injunction to the appellate court, setting up Thursday's ruling. Sessions could decide to continue fighting the case, Emanuel noted.
"This effort, while today is a significant step forward in underscoring that we are in the right when it comes to standing up to being a welcoming city, the fight against the Trump Justice Department is not over as it relates to this case," he said.
(c)2018 the Chicago Tribune