Court rules U.S. can't with­hold money from sanc­tu­ary cities

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions can’t fol­low through — at least for now — with his threat to with­hold pub­lic safety grant money to Chicago and other so-called sanc­tu­ary cities for re­fus­ing to im­pose new tough im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, a judge ruled Fri­day in a le­gal de­feat for the Trump administration.

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.

He said the city had shown a “like­li­hood of suc­cess” in ar­gu­ing that Ses­sions ex­ceeded his author­ity with the new con­di­tions. Among them are re­quire­ments that cities no­tify im­mi­gra­tion agents when some­one in the coun­try il­le­gally is about to be re­leased from lo­cal jails and to al­low agents ac­cess to the jails.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the rul­ing a vic­tory for cities, coun­ties and states na­tion­wide and “a clear state­ment that the Trump administration is wrong.”

“It means es­sen­tial re­sources for pub­lic safety will not come with un­law­ful strings at­tached, and the Trump jus­tice depart­ment can­not con­tinue to co­erce us into vi­o­lat­ing and aban­don­ing our val­ues,” Emanuel said.

The city had asked the judge for a “na­tion­wide” tem­po­rary in­junc­tion this week, ask­ing the judge not to al­low the Jus­tice Depart­ment to im­pose the re­quire­ments un­til the city’s law­suit against the depart­ment plays out in court.

City of­fi­cials have said such a rul­ing would pre­vent the Jus­tice Depart­ment from with­hold­ing what are called Ed­ward Byrne Me­mo­rial Jus­tice As­sis­tance Grants to the cities based on their re­fusal to take the steps Ses­sions or­dered.

Chicago has ap­plied for $2.2 mil­lion in the fed­eral grant money — $1.5 mil­lion for the city and the rest for Cook County and 10 other sub­urbs. But in a re­cent court hear­ing, at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the city said that more than 30 other ju­ris­dic­tions across the United States filed court briefs sup­port­ing Chicago’s law­suit and have up to $35 mil­lion in grants at stake. At least seven cities and coun­ties, in­clud­ing Seat­tle and San Fran­cisco, as well as the state of Cal­i­for­nia, are re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate with the new fed­eral rules.

Though the $1.5 mil­lion is just a tiny frac­tion of the city’s bud­get, the rul­ing could be a ma­jor vic­tory for a city that has been in a pub­lic fight with Ses­sions. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said the city would not “be black­mailed” into chang­ing its val­ues as a city wel­com­ing of im­mi­grants, and Ses­sions re­sponded that the Trump administration would not “sim­ply give away grant money to city gov­ern­ments that proudly vi­o­late the rule of law and pro­tect crim­i­nal aliens at the ex­pense of pub­lic safety.”

The city ar­gued that it would suf­fer “ir­repara­ble harm” if it lost the funds that are ear­marked to ex­pand the city’s use of “ShotSpot­ter ” technology to de­tect when some­one fires a gun. And it has made a sim­i­lar ar­gu­ment if the city were to fol­low the new re­quire­ments. Do­ing so, Emanuel said Fri­day, would “drive a wedge of dis­trust” be­tween the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity and the po­lice force, which needs that com­mu­nity to trust po­lice enough to come for­ward to re­port crimes and help of­fi­cers solve them.

The judge agreed, say­ing, “The harm to the City’s re­la­tion­ship with the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity if it should ac­cede to the con­di­tions is ir­repara­ble,” wrote the judge.


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