Threat to 4 ‘sanctuary cities’ prompts lawsuit
Chicago calls federal government’s bluff on denying grants due to immigration policies.
CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced that the city is suing the federal government in defense of its status as a so-called sanctuary city and against threats to withhold U.S. grant funds.
Emanuel on Friday told “Connected to Chicago” on WLS-AM that the city would be in federal court Monday arguing that grants can’t be withheld from cities the Trump administration says aren’t cooperating enough with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. The interview airs Sunday.
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions announced last month that local governments would lose the money if they didn’t give advance notice when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from custody. He also wants immigration agents to have access to local jails.
Officials say Chicago is expecting $3.2 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grants this year, mostly for purchasing police vehicles.
“We’re not going to actually auction off our values as a city, so Monday morning the city of Chicago is going to court; we’re going to take the Justice Department to court based on this,” Emanuel said. “We find it unlawful and unconstitutional to be, as a city, coerced on a policy.”
Sessions announced last week that letters were sent to four cities struggling with gun violence, telling them they will not be eligible for a program that provides money to combat drug trafficking and gang crime unless they follow through on his suggestions. The cities were Stockton, San Bernardino, Baltimore and Albuquerque.
None of the four has declared itself a “sanctuary city,” a term associated with ordinances aimed at shielding illegal immigrants.
In a letter to Sessions, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, a Republican, denied his city was a sanctuary for people in the country illegally and said he had been trying to work with immigration authorities since he took office in 2009. Berry said Immigration and Customs Enforcement staffing at a prison transport center had fallen in recent years.
Chicago law prohibits police from giving ICE agents access to people in police custody unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have a serious criminal conviction.
Local police are also barred from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for interviews or investigations and from responding to ICE inquiries or talking to agency officials about a person’s custody status or release date.
Local authorities say the policy helps encourage residents of the immigrant community to inform police when they are victims of crimes.
CHICAGO MAYOR Rahm Emanuel, pictured earlier this year, said Friday: “We find it unlawful and unconstitutional to be, as a city, coerced on a policy.”