WASHINGTON – The city of Chicago on Monday filed its much-touted lawsuit against the U.s. department of Justice over its effort to withhold some grants from so-called sanctuary cities.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s lawsuit is asking a federal judge to block the Trump administration from enforcing its new policy, which would affect not just Chicago, but also Cook County in Illinois, the location of the country’s largest single-site jail in the county.
The Justice Department quickly responded in an email noting that last year more people were killed in Chicago than New York and Los Angeles combined. “It’s especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago’s law enforcement at greater risk,” the response said.
Last year there were 762 homicides in Chicago; as of Sunday, 421 people have been killed this year.
President Donald Trump has long maintained that illegal immigration fuels crime, although statistics show undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens and legal residents.
Emanuel said in a Sunday news conference that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new policy is unlawful and unconstitutional. TThe mayor also said the policy intended to set precedent that could result in the withholding of further grant money.
Chicago was expecting $3.2 million from the affected grants this year, a fraction of the city’s overall $9.8 billion budget.
Under the new Justice Department policy, contained in conditions attached last week to applications for Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funding, the city would have to meet three conditions to receive funds that have been previously been used to buy police vehicles and other equipment.
The conditions are: sharing immigration status information with federal officials enforcing deportation laws, providing unlimited police station access to those officials, and giving the officials 48 hours notice of an arrested person’s release in cases of potential immigration violations.
“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 lawsuit states.
“Chicago currently bars police from providing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials access to people in local custody unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions. Officers also are prohibited from responding to ICE questions or talking to ICE officials prior to a detainee’s release from custody.
“Chicago’s Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel said the city will next file a motion for a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Justice Department from imposing the new rules. He said the city will ask the court to set a briefing schedule so a ruling can be issued before Sept. 5, the deadline for the Byrne grant applications.
Siskel said the Byrne grant is “critical” for the city’s public safety.
The mayor of the largely Democratic city has been railing against Trump’s tough-on-immigration policies since last year. But Siskel said the lawsuit “is not about politics, this is about protecting the constitutional rights of the residents of the city of Chicago and standing up for our values as a welcoming city.”
Other sanctuary cities affected by the new policy include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Dallas, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.