The city of Chicago is planning to file a lawsuit over new federal grant provisions targeting “sanctuary cities,” claiming that they violate the Constitution. According to a report from CNN, the city, through the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, called the Trump administration policies “misguided” and said that they would be challenging the new guidelines to ensure that the safety of Chicago’s residents was not threatened.
The policies Chicago is protesting require recipients of federal law enforcement grant money to require local police to assist in federal immigration enforcement, which goes against the core values that a sanctuary city represents. Sanctuary cities are defined by their policy of limiting cooperation with the federal government on immigration law enforcement.
The battle follows an executive order signed by Trump in January, ostensibly cracking down on sanctuary cities, following one of his campaign promises. The order states that sanctuary cities are not eligible to receive federal grants, except those deemed necessary by the attorney general or Secretary of State for law enforcement purposes. At the time, then-press secretary Sean Spicer said the following.
“We’re going to strip federal grant money from the sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants. The American people are no longer going to have to be forced to subsidize this disregard for our laws.”
Chicago, and its “Welcoming City” ordinance, is America’s highest-profile sanctuary city, and they say that they’re prepared to fight back against what Mayor Emanuel described as “blackmail.”
The suit focuses on conditions placed on the the FY2017 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which provides federal funding to assist law enforcement. Chicago received $2.3 million under the JAG in 2016, funding which was used to purchase SWAT equipment, police vehicles, radios and Tasers. Chicago expected to receive $3.2 million this year, money the city says it needs to replace aging police vehicles.
According to The Guardian, Emanuel went on to say that if Trump’s funding restrictions succeed, it could be used as precedent to set conditions on other federal grants and ultimately exercise control over individual states and cities, something that, if true, would directly contradict Article 1 of the Constitution, which is concerned with the separation of federal and state powers. The lawsuit contends, among other arguments, that the federal government cannot “commandeer local law enforcement” to enforce federal immigration law.
The Justice Department responded to the lawsuit by echoing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying that sanctuary cities make Americans less safe, and citing Chicago’s murder rate (a popular target of Trump, and one that many claim is badly skewed,) stating that more residents of Chicago were murdered last year 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,” spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement.
Sanctuary cities, including Chicago, have responded that targeting and deporting undocumented immigrants who have not been accused of serious crimes only harms public safety, as migrants become increasingly afraid to report crimes if they do not feel safe contacting local police.
Chicago is the first sanctuary city to challenge the new rules, although Chicago officials have apparently been in contact with other sanctuary cities over launching the suit, but Trump’s executive order addressing sanctuary city funding has already faced legal trouble. Last month, a judge refused to revisit a decision blocking the order, in a case filed by San Francisco and the California county of Santa Clara.
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]