State, local jurisdictions sue DOJ over new sanctuary city policy

UPDATE — 8/14, 4:06 p.m. EDT: The attorney general’s office of the state of California announced Monday it will file a lawsuit against the Justice Department for its new “sanctuary city” policy, which includes withholding funds to jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Similar to two cases brought last week by the cities of San Francisco and Chicago against DOJ, California’s lawsuit challenges President Trump’s executive order in January seeking two-day prior notice before local police release suspected illegal immigrants, as well as mandatory permission for federal immigration law enforcement officials to enter local detention centers.

“We abide by federal law. We respect the Constitution,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday. “The federal government is using the threat of its power, of its size, to bully local jurisdictions to do what they want.”


In a widely anticipated move Monday, the City of Chicago filed suit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) over its new “sanctuary city” policies.

“Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city. 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,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a Sunday press conference.

The suit filed by the city in U.S. District Court specifically seeks to preclude the DOJ from withholding grant money to jurisdictions which claim “sanctuary city” status.

A sanctuary city is not an officially recognized designation; however, many urban areas claim the rank, chiefly New York, Chicago and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Miami recently dropped their designation and now complies with federal law.

Under new DOJ guidelines, any city refusing to allow federal authorities access to local jails or refusing to notify federal officials 48 hours ahead of releasing illegal immigrants in custody can be denied federal grant assistance to law enforcement.

Under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, the federal government distributes millions of dollars in assistance to police departments nationwide.

The first major city to challenge the DOJ over Byrne grants, Chicago is scheduled to receive $3.2 million in 2017.  Chicago has  claimed “sanctuary status” since 1985.

Accusing Chicago of remaining “openly hostile” to the enforcement of immigration law, Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded to Chicago’s suit:

“This 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.” 

In court filings, plaintiffs argued that new DOJ policy would compel Chicago law enforcement to end its cooperative relationship with the city’s immigrant population.

“We are bringing this legal challenge because the rhetoric, the threats from this administration embodied in these new conditions imposed on unrelated public safety grants funds are breeding a culture and climate of fear,” said Emmanuel’s chief legal adviser, Ed Siskel.


[Washington Post] [Daily Kos] [Miami Herald] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Reuters via Huffington Post]