Trump Xenophobia Loses Again: Federal Court Rejects Trump’s Attack on Sanctuary Cities

Last week, the Trump Administration lost again in court.  This time, the court rejected Trump’s attempt to withdraw federal funding from “sanctuary cities.”  Sanctuary cities are those cities that do not require their local police departments to act as de facto federal immigration agents, but instead allow their police departments to focus on actual crime.

In the case, City of Chicago v. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, CV-17-5720 (N.D. Ill.), the Trump Administration attempted to withdraw federal grant money from Chicago in order to penalize the city for acting as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.  Chicago has enacted a “Welcoming City Ordinance,” which focuses on fostering trust and cooperation between local police and the immigrant community and restricts cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents.  The Ordinance prohibits local police from arresting or detaining someone based solely on a belief that the person is an undocumented immigrant.  The Ordinance also prohibits local police from the following:  (1) allowing federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to access local jails, (2) allowing ICE agents to conduct investigations in local jails, and (3) spending on duty time dealing with ICE inquiries.  The Ordinance does not apply to gang members, individuals with felony convictions or pending felony charges, or individuals with outstanding criminal arrest warrants.

The Trump Administration attempted to implement new federal grant conditions that directly violate the Welcoming City Ordinance.  In particular, the Trump Administration wants local police to provide federal agents advance notice of when they are releasing individuals who are suspected of immigration law violations.  The Trump Administration also wants local police to provide federal immigration agents with access to City detention facilities and individuals detained there.

In order to shield its immigrant community from xenophobic federal harassment and retain necessary federal funding, Chicago filed a lawsuit arguing that the new conditions on federal grant money are illegal.  Last week, the federal court agreed and held that Chicago would likely win its lawsuit.  The court held that Attorney General Jeff Sessions likely acted without legal authority by implementing the new federal grant conditions.

The court then issued a preliminary injunction against implementation of the new conditions for federal grants, holding:  “The harm to the City’s relationship with the immigrant community if it should accede to the conditions is irreparable.”  The injunction is significant because it does not affect only the City of Chicago, but it also applies to all similarly-affected cities across the country:  ‘This injunction against imposition of the notice and access conditions is nationwide in scope, there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago or that the statutory authority given to the Attorney General would differ in another jurisdiction.”

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