The city of Chicago filed a lawsuit Monday against the Department of Justice, claiming its policy of withholding federal funding to sanctuary cities is unconstitutional and constitutes blackmail.
The suit names Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the defendant. It contests Sessions’ July announcement that the Justice Department will not provide Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program funds to cities that espouse “sanctuary city” policies, refusing to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Chicago received $2.3 million from the program last year and was expected to receive $3.2 million this year.
“Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a prepared statement. “The city of Chicago will continue to stand up to President [Donald] Trump and his Justice Department to ensure that their misguided policies do not threaten the safety of our residents.”
City officials from New York and Los Angeles are also considering joining the lawsuit, according to NBC News.
[“This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety,” Sessions said in a statement released Monday evening by the Justice Department. “So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars.”]
The Justice Department’s new policy requires that, in order to be eligible for funding, cities must share immigration status data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, not bar ICE officials access to police stations, and give ICE officials 48 hours’ notice before releasing illegal immigrants from detainment.
The lawsuit argues that these requirements are “unauthorized and unconstitutional.” The city claims its “basic right to self-government” grants it authority to direct local law enforcement not to work with federal immigration officers.
Chicago also claims it was already in compliance with the first requirement to share immigration data with the Justice Department, saying the city simply doesn’t collect immigration data and has nothing to share. The city, however, could not claim to be in compliance when Sessions announced the second two requirements.
“The executive branch of the federal government may not arrogate to itself the powers that our Constitution reserves for Congress, on the one hand, or to state and local governments on the other,” the city’s lawsuit claims. “It may not concoct … sweeping new policy conditions that were never approved by Congress and that would federalize local jails and police stations.”
The Justice Department was quick to slam the lawsuit, claiming the city should focus more on reducing murder than protecting illegal immigrants.
“In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined. So 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 Justice Department said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“These policies are driven by politics and do not protect their citizens. We will fight them with every lawful tool available.”
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