Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
World | By Carl Welch

Judge: Justice Department can't deny grant money for sanctuary cities

Judge: Justice Department can't deny grant money for sanctuary cities

Chicago won a partial victory Friday against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' attempt to financially punish sanctuary cities for refusing to enforce federal immigration laws.

In what is at least a temporary victory for cities that have defied Sessions, U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber ruled that the Justice Department could not impose the requirements.

In July, Sessions announced that so-called sanctuary jurisdictions could not win grants from JAG, which are meant to help fund law enforcement, prosecution, courts, drug treatment and enforcement and other public safety needs. The matter has been a subject of constant legal challenges and wrangling ever since; in April, a federal judge in San Francisco similarly ruled against the administration, as did a federal judge in Texas just last month. Several weeks later, the city of Chicago sued Sessions, arguing that the new policy violated both the Constitution and federal law. President Donald Trump has made tougher immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his campaign and presidency, along with a pledge to build a wall on the U.S.

The grant at issue is called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, and the funds benefit law enforcement.

"Some states and cities have adopted policies created to frustrate the enforcement of our immigration laws", Sessions said.

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 a year ago.

Leinenweber's ruling was not welcomed at the Justice Department. The Trump administration, on the other hand, has accused sanctuary cities of putting politics over public safety. The Justice Department demanded that cities give ICE agents access to jails and report when an undocumented immigrant was released.

Leinenweber agreed with Chicago's assertion that trust between police and the community could suffer as a result of the restrictions, saying that it is a type of harm "that is especially hard to rectify".

A spokesman for the Department of Justice disagreed.

The judge's opinion temporarily blocks the DOJ program while the lawsuit plays out in court and claims Sessions doesn't have the authority to implement the policy.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed Friday's decision at a City Hall news conference as "an affirmation of the rule of law".

The preliminary injunction issued by a USA district judge was in response to a legal challenge brought by Chicago, the third-largest city in the US.

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