By Kevin Daley
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order conditioning federal aid to local law enforcement on compliance with immigration statutes is unlawful, a federal judge in Chicago ruled late Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber granted the city’s motion for summary judgement, finding Sessions exceeded his legal authority.
In May 2016, Sessions announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would only award Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants to jurisdictions which satisfied three immigration-related conditions.
Those three conditions required grant recipients to: share information with federal immigration authorities, provide notice before releasing illegal aliens, and allow federal officers access to local detention facilities.
Following the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ previous findings, Leinenweber explained that only Congress, not the AG, may place conditions on Byrne grants.
“The attorney general in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement,” he wrote, quoting the 7th Circuit’s decision at an earlier phase of the case. “But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds.”
He also reiterated that the federal law requiring local and federal immigration authorities to share information is unconstitutional, as it commandeers the sovereign authority states enjoy under federalism.
He went on to explain that dragooning local police into immigration enforcement efforts undermines public safety, citing an affidavit from a veteran Chicago police officer.
“Chicago’s compliance with the conditions would damage local law enforcement’s relationship with immigrant communities and decrease the cooperation essential to prevent and solve crimes both within those communities and Chicago at large,” he wrote.
The ruling leaves open the possibility that Congress itself may impose immigration-related conditions on federal law enforcement grants.
Despite siding with the city on the merits, the court declined to issue a nationwide order barring enforcement of the attorney general’s directive. As such, the ruling applies only to the city of Chicago, and not to other sanctuary jurisdictions who are challenging the Justice Department.
The 7th Circuit will consider whether Sessions’ order should be enjoined nationwide in early September.
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