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Chicago Files Complaint Over “Unconstitutional” Federal Grant Conditions

chicago-1627827_640-300x230The City of Chicago is opposing the Trump administration’s federal immigration policies, filing a complaint against the Justice Department over recent changes in federal grant guidelines. City officials allege these changes would coerce cities identified as “sanctuary cities” to comply with the federal government’s immigration efforts by withholding federal funds – a violation of the 10th amendment, as stated in the 46-page complaint.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that the Justice Department would withhold at least $385 million in grants from cities and states that refuse to detain undocumented immigrants in local jails deportation processing. The Justice Department states that the money, provided through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, is intended to improve police enforcement, mental health services, and to “reduce unnecessary incarceration in a manner that promotes public safety.”

Demands by the federal government, through Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), to use local jails to detain suspected undocumented immigrants with no local charges have sparked outrage in several cities around the country, with legal groups, cities officials, and universities making moves against the policy change. Most recently, the Massachusetts High Court decided per curiam that Massachusetts law could not permit or accommodate local immigration detainers from federal immigration agencies.

Chicago has followed suit and elevated the issue from a matter of state law to that of the highest law of the land, calling the Byrne Grant policy change unconstitutional.

In the 46-page complaint, the city writes: “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 new Byrne Grant conditions also contradict existing Chicago law ordering the police force to prioritize matters of public safety and law enforcement over immigration investigations—a policy intended to allay the concerns of immigrant victims of crime that they would be deported if they came forward and testified as witnesses.

The complaint points out that the change in conditions would coerce Chicago “…to detain its own residents and others at federal immigration officials’ request, in order to give the federal government a 48-hour notice window prior to an arrestee’s release; and to give federal immigration officials unlimited access to local police stations and law enforcement facilities in order to interrogate any suspected noncitizen held there, effectively federalizing all of the city’s detention facilities.”

Chicago’s law enforcement system, like many others in the United States, depends on federal funding to function. The new immigration policies leave local law enforcement with a tough decision to make—lose the trust of immigrant communities or the federal funds that supply most of its resources.

Sessions has responded to the complaint in a statement, saying: “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.”

If you want to learn more about these “sanctuary city” issues and how they affect your rights, don’t hesitate to talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm to discuss your options. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.