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Chicago Judge Rules Against Federal Defunding of So-called Sanctuary Cities

chicago-2519635_640-300x200Federal efforts to force counties and cities into complying with immigration policy have been stymied after a Chicago district court ruled against the defunding of so-called sanctuary cities—communities whose local government units and law enforcement officials refuse to detain and hand over undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation.

In July of this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would withhold millions of dollars in federal funding from cities and states that refuse to honor federal immigration detainers for supposed immigrants with no local criminal charges.

The federal funding in question comes from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which helps pay for the necessary law enforcement expenses of several local police departments in the country. This is paired with the threat to fine and even terminate sheriffs, campus police, and other law enforcement officers who refuse to cooperate with efforts to apprehend and deport identified immigrants.

But this aggressive campaign to crack down on immigrants has come at a significant cost to local law enforcement activities. Many of America’s police chiefs believe the aggressive campaign against sanctuary cities have caused many undocumented immigrants to avoid coming forward to report and testify against arrested criminal activity out of fear for their immigration status.

Sessions added specific conditions for cities to receive the grant—conditions that also happened to target sanctuary cities.

In Chicago’s case, the grant “would require Chicago (1) 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 (2) 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.”

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber decided Friday that by placing the two conditions to the Byrne Grant, Sessions effectively went beyond the bounds of his position. While a number of other statute-based grants allow for the U.S. Attorney General to take such measures, the Byrne grant particularly does not.

Leinenweber writes: “It would be quite odd for Congress to give the Attorney General authority to impose conditions on the discretionary grants if it had already provided the Attorney General authority to impose conditions on all grants.”

The Chicago judge also touched on the constitutionality of Sessions’ added conditions.

On federal unrestricted access to local information, Leinenweber writes that only affirmative demands on states result in a violation of the Tenth Amendment. His ruling follows a Supreme Court precedent and the authority of the Second Circuit, none of which raises federalism to the level demanded by the City (Chicago). Leinenweiber concludes that a decision to the contrary would require expanding the law that only the high court can do.

Sanctuary cities in Texas, like Houston and Austin, are also resisting the federal government’s requests to detain undocumented immigrants without warrants. If you or a loved one needs to know more about sanctuary city policies in Austin, talk to the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to learn more from immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.