Law­suit over ‘sanc­tu­ary city’ pol­icy

Chicago sues the Jus­tice Depart­ment over its threat to with­hold grant money.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By John Byrne and Hal Dardick

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ad­min­is­tra­tion on Monday filed its much-touted law­suit against the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment over its ef­fort to with­hold some grant fund­ing from “sanc­tu­ary cities.”

Emanuel wants a fed­eral judge to block the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion from en­forc­ing its new pol­icy, which would af­fect not just Chicago, but other ma­jor U.S. cities like New York and San Fran­cisco.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment re­sponded in an email that said last year more peo­ple were killed in Chicago than in New York and Los An­ge­les com­bined.

“It’s es­pe­cially tragic that the mayor is less con­cerned with that stag­ger­ing fig­ure than he is spend­ing time and tax­payer money pro­tect­ing crim­i­nal aliens and putting Chicago’s law en­force­ment at greater risk,” the email said.

Pres­i­dent Trump has long main­tained that il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion fu­els crime, an as­ser­tion that crit­ics say is not backed by statis­tics, which show that im­mi­grants in the coun­try with­out the re­quired per­mis­sion are less likely to com­mit crimes than U.S. cit­i­zens and le­gal res­i­dents.

Emanuel main­tained at a rare Sun­day news con­fer­ence that Trump’s pol­icy would dam­age ef­forts to tamp down crime, be­cause peo­ple in the city with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion would be afraid to co­op­er­ate with po­lice.

Emanuel said Atty. Gen. Jeff Ses­sions’ pol­icy is un­law­ful and un­con­sti­tu­tional. He also called it “the camel’s nose un­der the tent,” con­tend­ing it was an ef­fort to set prece­dent that could re­sult in the with­hold­ing of fur­ther grant money.

This year, Chicago was count­ing on re­ceiv­ing $3.2 mil­lion from the grants in ques­tion, a rel­a­tively minis­cule por­tion of the city’s over­all $9.8-bil­lion bud­get.

Un­der the new Jus­tice Depart­ment pol­icy, Chicago would have to meet three con­di­tions to re­ceive funds that the city has used in the past to buy po­lice ve­hi­cles and other equip­ment.

The con­di­tions in­clude shar­ing im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus in­for­ma­tion with fed­eral of­fi­cials en­forc­ing de­por­ta­tion laws, pro­vid­ing un­lim­ited po­lice sta­tion ac­cess to those of­fi­cials, and giv­ing the of­fi­cials 48-hour no­tice of an ar­rested per­son’s re­lease in cases of po­ten­tial im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions.

“These new con­di­tions — which would give fed­eral of­fi­cials the power to en­ter city fa­cil­i­ties and in­ter­ro­gate ar­restees at will and would force the city to de­tain in­di­vid­u­als longer than jus­ti­fied by prob­a­ble cause, solely to per­mit fed­eral of­fi­cials to in­ves­ti­gate their im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus — are unau­tho­rized and un­con­sti­tu­tional,” the law­suit said.

“These new con­di­tions also fly in the face of long­stand­ing city pol­icy that pro­motes co­op­er­a­tion be­tween lo­cal law en­force­ment and im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, en­sures ac­cess to essen­tial city ser­vices for all res­i­dents, and makes all Chicagoans safer,” the suit adds. “Nei­ther fed­eral law nor the United States Con­sti­tu­tion per­mits the at­tor­ney gen­eral to force Chicago to aban­don this crit­i­cal lo­cal pol­icy.”

Emanuel won praise from rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Chicago’s im­mi­grant com­mu­nity for go­ing to court Monday, al­though some of those same ac­tivists con­tend that the mayor should do even more to pre­vent po­lice from help­ing fed­eral of­fi­cials de­port im­mi­grants.

The city’s Wel­com­ing City Or­di­nance, which sets its sta­tus as a sanc­tu­ary city, bars po­lice from pro­vid­ing fed­eral Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment of­fi­cials ac­cess to peo­ple in lo­cal cus­tody.

It also pro­hibits al­low­ing ICE agents to use po­lice fa­cil­i­ties for in­ter­views or in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and bars on­duty of­fi­cers from re­spond­ing to ICE ques­tions or talk­ing to of­fi­cials prior to a per­son’s re­lease from cus­tody.

But it does al­low po­lice to pro­vide ICE of­fi­cials ac­cess to im­mi­grants who are wanted on a crim­i­nal war­rant, face crim­i­nal charges, have se­ri­ous crim­i­nal con­vic­tions or are listed in Chicago gang data­bases.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union main­tains those ex­emp­tions, which could re­sult in hold­ing in cus­tody some­one not guilty of a re­cent crime, “ex­pose the city to li­a­bil­ity for vi­o­la­tions of the 4th Amend­ment,” ac­cord­ing to a let­ter the group sent to the mayor last month.

Af­ter the law­suit was filed Monday, the city’s coun­sel, Ed Siskel, said Chicago would next file a mo­tion for a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion pro­hibit­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment from im­pos­ing the new rules.

He said the city would ask the court to set a brief­ing sched­ule so a rul­ing could be is­sued be­fore Sept. 5, the dead­line for grant ap­pli­ca­tions.

Siskel said the grants were cru­cial for the city’s pub­lic safety, even though they bring in such a small amount of money in the con­text of the full mu­nic­i­pal bud­get.

“We are at a time when ev­ery bit counts, and ev­ery re­source mat­ters in this fight,” he said. “In ad­di­tion, we are bring­ing this le­gal chal­lenge be­cause the rhetoric and the threats from this ad­min­is­tra­tion, em­bod­ied in these new re­stric­tions placed on pub­lic safety grant funds, are breed­ing a cul­ture and a cli­mate of fear within the com­mu­ni­ties in our city.”

The mayor of­ten ex­presses his op­po­si­tion to Trump’s tough-on-im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. It’s a po­si­tion that plays well po­lit­i­cally in largely Demo­cratic Chicago, which has a sig­nif­i­cant Latino pop­u­la­tion that’s be­come in­creas­ingly ac­tive po­lit­i­cally.

Emanuel has also backed suc­cess­ful ef­forts to strengthen the city’s Wel­com­ing City Or­di­nance, cre­ate a le­gal fund to as­sist im­mi­grants threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion and start de­vel­op­ing a mu­nic­i­pal ID pro­gram aimed mostly at help­ing im­mi­grants with­out doc­u­men­ta­tion make their way in the city.

“This is not about pol­i­tics. This is about pro­tect­ing the con­sti­tu­tional rights of the res­i­dents of the city of Chicago and stand­ing up for our val­ues as a wel­com­ing city,” Siskel said.

The mayor has faced limited op­po­si­tion, of­ten from Al­der­man Ni­cholas Sposato, who on Monday called the law­suit “a bad idea,” say­ing the city was “break­ing the laws” and had more im­por­tant pri­or­i­ties.

Byrne and Dardick write for the Chicago Tri­bune.

Jose M. Oso­rio Chicago Tri­bune

ED SISKEL, coun­sel for the city of Chicago, said the suit was not about pol­i­tics. “This is about pro­tect­ing the con­sti­tu­tional rights of the res­i­dents of the city of Chicago and stand­ing up for our val­ues as a wel­com­ing city.”

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