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Seventh Circuit Slams Justice Department for Withholding Grant Money to ‘Sanctuary Cities’

seventh-circuit-imageThe 7th Circuit appears set on upholding a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Department of Justice’s efforts to withhold funding to sanctuary cities, so called because of their refusal to cooperate with the Trump administration’s anti-immigration crackdown.

In July last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would be withholding grant money of up to $385 million from cities and counties that refuse to comply with federal detainer requests. These “requests” require local law enforcement agencies to detain suspected illegal immigrants without local charges, until such time that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can arrive at the scene and initiate deportation proceedings.

The money in question is siphoned to local jurisdictions through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which helps to pay for local law enforcement expenses, such as body cameras and improved mental health care services with the aim of reducing gun violence and unnecessary incarceration.

U.S. Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner criticized the administration policy, calling it a breach of the separation of powers, this after the Justice Department argued that the Office of the Attorney General has the authority to impose any special condition on local municipalities before they can receive the Byrne grant, or any other grant for that matter.

In the hearing, Rovner asked if the White House was infringing upon states’ rights, threatening to withhold funding and “conscripting” local police to enforce federal laws out of fear of budget cuts, even layoffs.

In 2017, Sessions issued a memo personally addressed to 29 jurisdictions he identified to be part of the immigration enforcement problem.

The responses varied.

California stood its ground, declaring itself a “sanctuary state” last month as Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act, a state law protecting California’s vast immigrant population from deportation activities. Chicago also pushed back, suing the government in August last year for “unconstitutional immigration enforcement.”

But Sessions’ tactics seemed to have worked to some extent, with a number of cities responding by complying with the new federal policies. In August last year, Sessions was quick to praise officials from Miami-Dade County, Florida, which, because of their cooperation with the feds, received over $3 million in police grants.

Oddly enough, Chicago also got the same amount despite their refusal to cooperate.

Should the 7th Circuit uphold the nationwide injunction against the Justice Department’s grant policy against sanctuary cities, Sessions will have no choice but to seek other options to overturn the current freeze against all 50 states.

A similar battle over the legality of anti-sanctuary city policies is also happening in Texas, after Governor Greg Abbott pushed for, and got, a sanctuary cities law that allows the removal of local officials who refuse to cooperate fully with ICE. Texan immigrants can rest easy for now, as the law’s crucial provisions have been blocked, pending an appeal to the 5th Circuit.

If you or a loved one needs to know more about so-called sanctuary city policies in Texas, especially Austin, talk to the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today to learn more from immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.