While his city is spiraling out of control, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice over threats to cut funding to sanctuary cities. The Chicago Tribune reported:

“Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns in a debate,” Emanuel said. “Chicago will not let our residents have their fundamental rights isolated and violated. And Chicago will never relinquish our status as a welcoming city.”

Federal Grant Money

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened to withhold federal funding from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant towards cities that consider them sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants. The program “is the leading source of federal funding to state and local jurisdictions.” The website states:

The JAG Program provides states, tribes, and local governments with critical funding necessary to support a range of program areas including law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, planning, evaluation, technology improvement, and crime victim and witness initiatives and mental health programs and related law enforcement and corrections programs, including behavioral programs and crisis intervention teams.

Sessions wants the cities to comply “with a federal law that bars restrictions on local police sharing immigration status information, providing unlimited police station access to federal officials searching for people in the country illegally and giving federal officials 48 hours’ notice of an arrested person’s release in cases of potential immigration violations.”

He stated in July that the sanctuary city policies “make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.”

The Lawsuit

From The Chicago Sun-Times:

The 46-page filing asks a judge to stop the Justice Department from enforcing new grant guidelines, including one that would “give federal immigration officials unlimited access to local police stations and law enforcement facilities in order to interrogate any suspected non-citizen held there, effectively federalizing all of the City’s detention facilities.”

“These new conditions — which would give federal officials the power to enter city facilities and interrogate arrestees at will and would force the City to detain individuals longer than justified by probable cause, solely to permit federal officials to investigate their immigration status — are unauthorized and unconstitutional,” the city’s lawyers wrote.

During a press conference Monday morning, Chicago Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel told reporters “we are bringing this legal challenge because of the rhetoric – the threats — from this administration embodied in these new conditions.” He also said a motion for a preliminary injunction would follow.

Right now, Chicago “bars police from providing federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] officials access to people in local custody unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions.” The city does not allow “ICE agents to sue police facilities for interviews or investigations and bars on-duty officers from responding to ICE questions or talking to ICE officials prior to a person’s release from custody.”

Chicago Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel stated that he doesn’t think that “Sessions has the authority to add the requirements to a grant program created by Congress or to force local police departments to carry out federal immigration functions.”

Emanuel attempted to justify the lawsuit on CNN this morning:

“We want you to come to Chicago if you believe in the American dream,” Emanuel, a Democrat, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “Newsroom.” “By forcing us, or the police department, to choose between the values of the city and the philosophy of the police department, in community policing, I think it’s a false choice and it undermines our actual safety agenda.”

He continued: “So we’re going to be filing a case saying that the Justice Department is wrong on constitutional legal grounds that is we will always be a welcoming city … but it also is true that our police department is part of a neighborhood, part of a community, built on the premise of trust.”

Emanuel has admitted that the money the city receives from the grant only makes up a small portion of its budget:

However, Emanuel said the conditions placed on applications for the Byrne Grant — due Sept. 5 — amount to a “camel’s nose under the tent,” and if successful would certainly lead to additional punitive actions against sanctuary cities like Chicago.

“This is true to who we are,” Emanuel said, noting that Chicago would be the first city to take the Trump administration to court on this issue. “I expect other cities to follow suit.”

The mayor explained that city will use a strategy based on a Supreme Court ruling:

Emanuel said the city’s legal strategy would rely on a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that found that the federal government could not withold [sic] funds in an attempt to force states to expand Medicaid.

In April, a federal judge blocked an initial order by Sessions that raised the possibility that Chicago stood to lose $1.3 billion — 14 percent of its budget. The president’s executive order contained “broad and threatening language” that “impermissibly” threatened cities like Chicago determined to protect undocumented immigrants with the loss of all federal grants, the judge ruled.

However, that ruling did not stop the federal government from enforcing existing conditions on federal law enforcement grants. The Obama administration also required cities to promise to follow federal immigration laws.

The DOJ Responds

The DOJ cannot believe Emanuel concentrates on this subject instead of the crimes ravaging his city:

The Justice Department fired back at Emanuel, pointing out the city’s growing problem with violent crimes.

“In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined. So it’s especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago’s law enforcement at greater risk,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told the Sun-Times.


On Sunday, Leslie blogged that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra may sue the Trump administration for the same reason:

Now, the state’s Attorney General may sue the Trump administration after the Department of Justice took steps this week to pull funds from “sanctuary cities.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — in conjunction with other California city and county attorneys — is considering charging the Justice Department with violating the Constitution by threatening to take crime-fighting funds away from cities and states that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration agents, according to those sources.

“The cities and states affected by these provisions have strong arguments to make in court that these conditions are illegal,” said a former Justice Department official familiar with California officials’ thinking. “If Congress wanted these requirements to be part of the grant funding decision, they would have written it into the law.”

Becerra plans to argue that Congress, not the executive branch, has power to set conditions on the grant money.

City of Chicago V. Jeff Sessions by DNAinfo Chicago on Scribd


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