CHICAGO — President Trump’s attempt to crack down on sanctuary cities was stymied again Thursday as a federal appeals court in Chicago upheld a nationwide injunction prohibiting the administration’s effort to make federal funding for public safety contingent on cities cooperating with immigration enforcement.
The three-judge panel concluded the Trump administration exceeded its legal authority in trying to implement stricter immigration conditions to secure grant money without approval from Congress. All three judges in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling were Republican appointees.
“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,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote in the opinion, joined by Judge William Bauer. “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.”
The appeals court decision is related to a lawsuit filed last year by the city of Chicago in the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois questioning the constitutionality of the Justice Departments attempts to force local police departments to assist federal immigration officials. In September, District Judge Harry Leinenweber sided with Chicago officials who argued that penalizing cities for protecting undocumented immigrants was unlawful and unconstitutional. He said Attorney General Jeff Sessions lacked authority to impose such conditions on the federal grant program.
In response to the setbacks in court, Sessions has frozen about $250 million in federal grants, including funding to police departments that have agreed to comply with the administration's immigration requirements, until the legal battle is settled.
San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have also won federal court decisions against the Trump administration’s attempt to force those cities' police departments to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The 7th Circuit is the highest court to rule against the Trump administration’s effort to push cities to assist federal immigration officials.
One judge on the panel, Daniel Manion, wrote that the injunction should be narrowed to cover only Chicago. Manion noted "other jurisdictions that do not want to comply with the Notice and Access conditions were not parties to this suit, and there is no need to protect them in order to protect Chicago."
Devin O'Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, said that the administration is acting within its authority by attaching conditions to the grant.
"Many in the legal community have expressed concern that the use of nationwide injunctions is inconsistent with the separation of powers, and that their increased use creates a dangerous precedent," O'Malley said in a statement. "We will continue to fight to carry out the Department’s commitment to the rule of law, protecting public safety, and keeping criminal aliens off the streets to further perpetrate crimes.”
Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and other big city leaders have defended limiting the cooperation that his city’s police officers have with immigration officials as necessary, so undocumented members won’t hesitate to cooperate with local law enforcement.
“We fundamentally believe we want people to feel that they can not only trust the police department but they can work with the police department,” Emanuel told reporters after the 7th Circuit panel issued the ruling. “We are not giving an inch. We are not going to step off our views of what this city believes in and what this city will fight for.”
On Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to bash California and the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, over the battle on sanctuary cities.
“There is a Revolution going on in California,” Trump tweeted. “Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept.”