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Donald Trump blocked by federal judge in fight over ‘sanctuary cities’

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-09-2017 Janan Hanna

Chicago/San Francisco: The Trump administration lost another round in its effort to punish cities that don’t cooperate with its crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

A Chicago federal judge ruled on Friday the US Justice Department can’t withhold millions of dollars in grants supporting public safety from cities that refuse to share with federal officials the immigration status of suspects in custody.

The limited restrictions on funding challenged by Chicago were imposed by the Justice Department after the Trump administration was blocked by a San Francisco judge in April from making much broader cuts in jurisdictions that don’t assist its efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.

“The court finds that the city has established that it would suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is not entered,” US district judge Harry Leinenweber said in his ruling. The injunction is “nationwide in scope,” Leinenweber said, “there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago.”

Forcing reluctant cities to help round up undocumented immigrants was a key component of the president’s campaign vow to rid the US of “bad hombres” entering from Mexico. The ruling further frustrates an administration mired in litigation over immigration policy since Trump took office in January.

Still unresolved are legal fights over the president’s travel ban targeting travellers six mostly Muslim countries and a budget showdown in Congress over funding for his promised border wall with Mexico that risks a government shutdown.

The rules at issue would have required police to provide the Department of Homeland Security with unlimited access to police stations to interrogate civilians who are arrested, and give at least a 48-hour notice before the release of someone suspected of immigration violations.

Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, stood to lose its Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant — which last year was $2.3 million — for failing to comply with the Justice Department’s conditions. Total funding for such grants this year was $383.5 million, according to the Justice Department.

San Francisco, Los Angeles and the state of California also sued the federal government over the threat of losing Byrne grants.

Chicago argued in court that the federal regulation ran afoul of the Constitution’s separation of powers principles and also violates a criminal suspect’s Fourth Amendment right not to be held in custody without being charged.

Grant conditions

Like other sanctuary cities, Chicago has a longstanding policy of not sharing information with federal immigration authorities unless a suspect is charged or convicted of a serious crime. The policy “promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities,” Chicago said in its complaint.

The Justice Department argued that it has discretion to attach conditions to the Byrne grants and that Chicago was effectively demanding that the US give it control over the program.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Chicago’s 7 August lawsuit “astounding,” saying the city has gone through an unprecedented violent crime surge, “with the number of murders in 2016 surpassing both New York and Los Angeles combined.”

“To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system,” Sessions said in a statement after the complaint was filed.

The case is Chicago v. Sessions, 17-cv-05720, US District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). Bloomberg

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