Chicago sues U.S. to re­tain po­lice grant

Com­ply with ‘sanc­tu­ary city’ pol­icy or forgo fund­ing, Ses­sions coun­ters

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Sand­hya So­mashekhar of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Michael Tarm and Sophia Tareen of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel an­nounced that the city was su­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment over a plan to with­hold fed­eral pub­lic safety grants to ju­ris­dic­tions that adopt cer­tain “sanc­tu­ary city” poli­cies.

Hours later, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions hit back at Chicago, say­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion “will not sim­ply give away grant dol­lars to city gov­ern­ments that proudly vi­o­late the rule of law and pro­tect crim­i­nal aliens at the ex­pense of pub­lic safety.”

“So it’s this sim­ple: Com­ply with the law or forego tax­payer dol­lars,” he said in a toughly worded state­ment.

A 46-page law­suit against the gov­ern­ment was filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Chicago a day af­ter Emanuel an­nounced the lit­i­ga­tion and said the city won’t “be black­mailed” into chang­ing its val­ues as a city wel­com­ing of im­mi­grants.

The law­suit, which the city filed Mon­day, cen­ters on new guid­ance the Jus­tice Depart­ment is­sued last month re­quir­ing re­cip­i­ents of Ed­ward Byrne Memo­rial Jus­tice As­sis­tance grants to give fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties un­fet­tered ac­cess to jails and to no­tify them 48 hours in ad­vance of plans to re­lease an in­mate wanted on an im­mi­gra­tion de­tainer. The law­suit ar­gues that the re­quire­ments “fed­er­al­ize” lo­cal jails and vi­o­late the con­sti­tu­tional rights of in­mates, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

“Chicago will not be black­mailed into chang­ing our val­ues, and we are and will re­main a wel­com­ing City,” Emanuel said in a state­ment late Sun­day. “The fed­eral gov­ern­ment should be work­ing with ci­ties to pro­vide nec­es­sary re­sources to im­prove pub­lic safety, not con­coct­ing new schemes to re­duce our crime fight­ing re­sources.”

“The gov­ern­ment,” the law­suit says, can’t “uni­lat­er­ally” set new con­di­tions that weren’t ap­proved by Congress “and that would fed­er­al­ize lo­cal jails and po­lice sta­tions, man­date war­rant­less de­ten­tions in order to in­ves­ti­gate for fed­eral civil in­frac­tions, sow fear in lo­cal im­mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, and ul­ti­mately make the peo­ple of Chicago less safe.”

A first order of busi­ness now that Chicago’s suit has been filed will be to ask a judge to put a freeze on the pol­icy as the civil case plays out, said Ed­ward Siskel, the head of City Hall’s le­gal depart­ment. That re­quest for a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion could be made within days.

The law­suit, which names Ses­sions, seeks to re­move the im­mi­gra­tion-re­lated con­di­tions for the grant ap­pli­ca­tions.

The law­suit is the lat­est strike in an on­go­ing bat­tle be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and ci­ties with poli­cies that bar close co­op­er­a­tion with fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws, of­ten known as sanc­tu­ary ci­ties. Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say the poli­cies un­der­mine ef­forts to root out and de­port vi­o­lent crim­i­nals who are in the coun­try il­le­gally, while the ci­ties say the close co­op­er­a­tion fed­eral au­thor­i­ties de­mand un­der­mines pub­lic trust and forces them to vi­o­late the rights of their res­i­dents.

Chicago is among sev­eral ju­ris­dic­tions al­ready locked in a le­gal bat­tle with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion over an ex­ec­u­tive order, largely blocked by a fed­eral court, aimed at with­hold­ing fed­eral funds from sanc­tu­ary ci­ties.

In an­nounc­ing the much nar­rower new pol­icy this month, Ses­sions said the new re­stric­tions are nec­es­sary to en­sure that im­mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties have the in­for­ma­tion they need to keep cit­i­zens safe.

City au­thor­i­ties say the poli­cies help en­cour­age res­i­dents of the im­mi­grant com­mu­nity to in­form po­lice when they are vic­tims of crimes.

“If Chicago sub­mits to the Depart­ment’s de­mands, it will for­feit decades’ worth of trust and good­will that its po­lice force has built in the com­mu­ni­ties it serves,” the new law­suit ar­gues. “And as those decades of ex­pe­ri­ence show, that kind of trust, once lost, is lost for­ever.”

Ses­sions al­luded to ar­gu­ments also made by Trump that en­forc­ing im­mi­gra­tion laws can re­duce crime. He calls Chicago’s “hos­til­ity” to such laws es­pe­cially “as­tound­ing” given that num­bers of homi­cides in the city in 2016 out­paced the num­bers in New York and Los An­ge­les.

“The city’s lead­ers can­not fol­low some laws and ignore others and rea­son­ably ex­pect this hor­rific sit­u­a­tion to im­prove,” Ses­sions said.

He also char­ac­ter­ized Emanuel as com­plain­ing it would have to re­order long­stand­ing poli­cies to con­form.

“But that’s just what Chicago needs: a recom­mit­ment to the rule of law and to poli­cies that roll back the cul­ture of lawlessness that has be­set the city,” Ses­sions said.

Chicago re­ceived $2.3 mil­lion in Byrne grants last year. The grants have been used in pre­vi­ous years to pur­chase equip­ment, po­lice ve­hi­cles, ra­dios and Tasers.

While the grant money amounts to a frac­tion of Chicago’s pub­lic safety bud­get, Emanuel has said fight­ing the gov­ern­ment now could help pre­vent the with­hold­ing of more money later.


The head of Chicago’s le­gal depart­ment, Ed­ward Siskel, lis­tens to a ques­tion dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the Dirk­sen Fed­eral Court­house on Mon­day.

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