U.S. can’t halt public-safety grants to sanctuary cities, judge rules
CHICAGO — The Justice Department can’t withhold public-safety grant money to Chicago and other so-called sanctuary cities for refusing to…
CHICAGO — The Justice Department can’t withhold public-safety grant money to Chicago and other so-called sanctuary cities for refusing to impose new tough immigration policies, a judge ruled Friday.
In what is at least a temporary victory for cities that have defied the directive of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled that the Justice Department cannot impose the requirements.
The ruling comes amid a nationwide debate over immigration, after President Donald Trump last week announced that he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has granted temporary work permits and deportation relief to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The restrictions on funding that Chicago challenged were imposed by the Justice Department after a San Francisco judge in April blocked the Trump administration from making much broader cuts in areas that don’t assist in efforts to deport illegal aliens.
“The court finds that the city has established that it would suffer irreparable harm if a preliminary injunction is not entered,” Leinenweber said in his ruling. The injunction is “nationwide in scope,” Leinenweber said, “there being no reason to think that the legal issues present in this case are restricted to Chicago.”
The rules at issue would have required police to provide the Department of Homeland Security with unlimited access to police stations to interrogate arrested civilians and give the U.S. at least 48 hours’ notice before releasing anyone suspected of immigration violations.
Forcing reluctant cities to help round up illegal aliens was a key component of the president’s campaign pledge to rid the U.S. of “bad hombres” entering from Mexico. The ruling further frustrates an administration mired in litigation over immigration policy since Trump took office in January.
Still unresolved are legal fights over the president’s travel ban targeting people from six mostly Muslim countries and a budget showdown in Congress over funding for his promised border wall with Mexico.
Leinenweber said Chicago had shown a “likelihood of success” in arguing that Sessions exceeded his authority with the new conditions.
City officials have said the ruling will prevent the Justice Department from withholding Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants to cities based on the cities’ refusals to take the steps Sessions ordered.
Officials applied for $2.2 million in the federal grant money — $1.5 million for Chicago and the rest for Cook County and 10 other suburbs.
In a recent court hearing, attorneys representing Chicago said more than 30 other jurisdictions across the United States filed court briefs in support of Chicago’s lawsuit and up to $35 million in grants were at stake. At least seven cities and counties, including Seattle and San Francisco, as well as the state of California, are refusing to cooperate with the new federal rules.
Though $1.5 million is a fraction of Chicago’s budget, the ruling is seen as a big victory in the city’s public fight with Sessions.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said Chicago would not “be blackmailed” into changing its values as a city welcoming to immigrants. Sessions responded that the Trump administration would not “give away grant money to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety.”
Sessions called Chicago’s Aug. 7 lawsuit “astounding,” saying the city has gone through an unprecedented violent crime surge, “with the number of murders in 2016 surpassing both New York and Los Angeles combined.”
“To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system,” Sessions said in a statement after the complaint was filed.
NEW YORK ORDER
Meanwhile, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday issued an executive order barring state agencies and officials from asking people about their immigration status.
The directive also prohibits officials from disclosing a person’s immigration status to federal authorities, except in certain situations such as a law enforcement investigation.
“As Washington squabbles over rolling back sensible immigration policy, we are taking action to help protect all New Yorkers from unwarranted targeting by government,” Cuomo said in a statement accompanying his order. “New York became the Empire State due to the contributions of immigrants from every corner of the globe and we will not let the politics of fear and intimidation divide us.”
Practically speaking, the order means that state police troopers or officers with other state law enforcement agencies will not be allowed to question a crime victim or a witness about his citizenship or residency.
It also means that the state’s public universities and colleges are barred from sharing residency information about students with federal immigration officials or the Trump administration.
The order does not apply to local police or municipal governments, a point that Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard pointed out in a directive to his deputies.
“As sheriff, part of my job is enforcing our constitution and the law, regardless of what cheap political points Albany politicians are looking to score,” Howard, a Republican, said in a statement.
Trump on Friday took a hard line against allowing close family members of new immigrants to follow those immigrants to the U.S.
Trump wrote on Twitter that a new immigration bill cannot include “chain migration,” a term that advocates of limiting immigrants use to describe how new U.S. citizens can sponsor family members in obtaining legal status.
If Trump sticks to that position, experts say it could sap Democrats’ support for Wednesday’s tentative agreement between Trump and the top two Democrats in Congress to seek a law giving legal status to roughly 800,000 mostly young illegal aliens brought to the country as children.
Immigration hard-liners, including in the White House, are concerned that a law allowing those young people to become U.S. citizens, would then allow them to sponsor their parents and close relatives for lawful permanent residence, increasing the number of immigrants in the country.
Trump announced last week that he would phase out Dreamers’ deportation protections, which were provided under the 5-year-old Barack Obama administration’s deferred-action program. That program allows the youths to work and attend college after undergoing federal background checks. Beneficiaries’ 2-year work permits and deportation deferrals will begin expiring in March if Congress doesn’t act to change it.
Trump promised during his presidential campaign to end the program. Immediately after issuing his order last week, he sought to allay its impact. Many Americans, including Republicans, support and sympathize with the youths.
Trump reportedly came to an agreement over dinner Wednesday night with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer to write those protections into law in exchange for increased spending on border security.
A bipartisan majority in Congress supports protections for the illegal youths, House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday.
In a radio interview, Ryan said “there’s a sweet spot for this … a majority in Congress” to protect young immigrants while also bolstering border security.
Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said any legislation to protect “Dreamers” would be paired with measures to strengthen border security, which he called “the root cause” of problems from widespread opioid addiction to violent gangs such as MS-13.
“While we do this [legislative fix for young immigrants] we have a border problem we’ve got to fix,” Ryan said on Milwaukee’s WISN-AM.
Ryan said he and other GOP leaders “have leverage” to insist that any bill to protect young immigrants includes tough border protections.
“We will not in good conscience fix a symptom of the problem without dealing with the root cause of the problem,” he said, adding that many Democrats agree with him.
“I think Democrats get that. They understand that yes, we do need to secure our border; yes, we do have an opioid problem; yes, we do have an MS-13 problem; yes, we do actually agree that we have to do this,” Ryan said.
Information for this article was contributed by Don Babwin, Matthew Daly and David Klepper of The Associated Press; by Janan Hanna and Kartikay Mehrotra of Bloomberg News; and by Brian Bennett of the Tribune Washington Bureau.
A Section on 09/16/2017
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