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Justice Department Pushes Sanctuary Cities Issue to Supreme Court

— June 18, 2018

In another bid to ensure its ability to punish so-called sanctuary cities, the Justice Department is sending a petition to the Supreme Court.

According to POLITICO, the agency filed an emergency junction with the court on Monday, asking it to overturn a nationwide injunction issued by a Chicago judge.

The administration argues that the injunction should only be applied in Chicago, with the rest of the country excepted from its purview. Forbidding Washington from withholding grants and other funds from self-proclaimed sanctuary cities, claims the Justice Department, could cause “irreparable harm to the government and the public.”

“The government respectfully requests a stay only as to the nationwide scope of the injunction—which bars applications of the two conditions not only to Chicago, but also to all other grant applications that are not parties to the case,” wrote Solicitor General Noel Francisco in a filing.

A 2011 image of then-Senator Jeff Sessions speaking at a summit. Sessions, along with President Trump, is among the most outspoken critics of current U.S. immigration law. Last week, Attorney General Sessions reversed existing policy on asylum-seekers, in a move that’d make it more difficult for refugees fleeing domestic violence and gang warfare to immigrate to the United States. Image via Flickr/user: Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0)

At issue, writes The Independent, is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which disburses federal funds to local law enforcement agencies.

President Trump—practically from his first day in office—has fought to deny assistance to cities which don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The administration laid down two mandates for grant recipients in 2017: that local law enforcement notify U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement when undocumented aliens are released from jail, and that federal agents be allowed to interview such immigrants while they’re still in custody.

But Chicago, which refused to comply with the administration’s ultimatum, launched an extensive lawsuit against the Justice Department. City attorneys said government demands would destroy police officers’ relationships with immigrant communities.

Last September, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled in favor of Chicago, supposing its case would prevail in court.

However, Leinenweber angered the administration by docking its ability to withhold assistance from Chicago—along with sanctuary cities across the country.

“The injunction against imposition of the notice and access conditions is nationwide in scope, there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago or that the statutory authority given to the Attorney General would differ in another jurisdiction,” wrote the judge in a 2017 opinion.

The Independent reports that an appeals court upheld the injunction while leaving room for reconsideration. But the Justice Department won’t wait, pushing to have the decision discarded as soon as possible.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been an outspoken critic of sanctuary city policies, which aim to reduce crime by giving undocumented immigrants an opportunity to report offenses without fear of they themselves being arrested.

“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk,” said Sessions.

In the past, Sessions has pointed to cities like Chicago and Philadelphia as hotbeds of immigrant-driven crime.


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