In a victory for so-called “sanctuary cities,” a federal judge in Chicago on Friday issued a nationwide injunction that blocks Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempt to deny certain funding to jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
US District Judge Harry Leinenweber said in the ruling that Sessions had exceeded his authority in imposing new conditions on jurisdictions’ eligibility for a major grant that funds police departments across the country, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Sessions in July toughened the Department of Justice’s crackdown on sanctuary cities by announcing that certain grant programs for cities and states would be awarded only to jurisdictions that allow federal immigration officers into detention facilities and provide 48 hours’ notice before releasing inmates wanted by federal authorities.
The move was a significant escalation in the Trump administration’s approach to sanctuary jurisdictions, which typically refuse to honor federal requests to detain immigrants in jails past their scheduled release dates unless the requests are accompanied by a judicial warrant.
Chicago, among other jurisdictions, reacted with hostility to the measures, saying they would infringe upon the independence of local law-enforcement agencies and undermine the inroads police officers have made in gaining trust from immigrant communities fearful that encounters with the local police will lead to deportations.
Leinenweber apparently agreed, saying in his ruling that Sessions had attempted an “unprecedented seizure of power” in imposing such conditions on law enforcement grants, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Sessions has frequently assailed Chicago’s sanctuary policies and linked them to the city’s high violent crime and murder rates. Last month, Sessions accused local officials there of obstructing federal immigration laws “to a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction” after the city sued over his threat to cut off the grants.
“No amount of federal taxpayer dollars will help a city that refuses to help its own residents,” Sessions said in a statement. “This is astounding given the unprecedented crime surge in Chicago, with the number of murders in 2016 surpassing both New York and Los Angeles combined.”
At stake for Chicago is roughly $2.3 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. That pales in comparison to Chicago’s $9.8 billion budget, but Chicago officials have argued that more grants are likely to be at risk if the Trump administration is permitted to make such funding conditional upon cooperation with immigration authorities.