Attorney General Jeff Sessions has hit back hard at Chicago after the city filed a lawsuit that argues the Trump administration's bid to withhold public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities is illegal.
A Monday statement from Sessions was issued hours after the city filed its lawsuit in Chicago federal court that defends cities that limit cooperation with enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
Sessions' says Chicago leaders have "demonstrated an open hostility to enforcing laws designed to protect law enforcement ... and reduce crime."
Sessions says President Donald Trump's 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." And he adds, "So it's this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars."
"Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city," Mayr Rahm Emanuel said in a released statement.
"The federal government should be working with cities to provide necessary resources to improve public safety, not concocting new schemes to reduce our crime fighting resources," he continued. "The City of Chicago will continue to stand up to President Trump and his Justice Department to ensure that their misguided policies do not threaten the safety of our residents."
The mayor announced the lawsuit during a news conference at City Hall alongside legal advisor and head of the City’s Law Department Ed Siskel, as well as Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who highlighted the importance of federal resources in combatting the city's violence.
The Justice Department released its application for the 2017 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) on Thursday, a program Emanuel said Chicago has used in the past for various public safety initiatives, including the purchase of SWAT equipment, police vehicles, radios and tasers. Last year, the City received $2.3 million in Byrne JAG funding, according to the mayor.
However, this year’s application includes provisions requiring local governments to allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security access to any detention facility to meet with and inquire about the citizenship of anyone believed to be undocumented, and to give federal authorities 48 hours advance notice before releasing someone who is wanted on immigration violations, as conditions to receive funding – both changes in the program’s requirements from years past.
The city's lawsuit will argue that the Justice Department cannot make grants contingent on these requirements because they would "effectively federalize local detention facilities" and violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in requiring detainees to be held beyond the timeframe in which they would otherwise be eligible for release.
The DOJ's shift in requirements is part of Trump’s administration’s efforts to crack down on sanctuary cities, the term used for jurisdictions that do not comply with federal requests to detain undocumented immigrants who have been arrested on charges unrelated to their immigration status and turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation.
Trump signed an executive order in January to block federal grants to sanctuary cities, an action that a judge blocked in April, ruling that the president could not set new conditions on spending approved by Congress - an argument included in the City of Chicago's lawsuit.
However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has moved to intensify the crackdown on a number of occasions, most recently sending letters to four cities informing them they would be ineligible to receive resources under a new crime-fighting program unless their police departments show proof of compliance with the DOJ’s new rules.
In March, Sessions said sanctuary cities' policies are "designed to frustrate the enforcement of our immigration laws" – a claim that Emanuel has refuted, repeatedly defending Chicago’s "Welcoming City" ordinance.
"Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance promotes public safety by ensuring that no city resident, regardless of their status, is afraid to cooperate with law enforcement, report criminal activity to the police, serve as a witness in court, or seek help as a victim of crime," a spokesman for Emanuel said in a statement.
"I've always seen Chicago as a welcoming city," Emanuel said in response to Sessions' comments in March.
"It welcomed my grandfather 100 years ago, we continue to welcome entrepreneurs, immigrants, and I would just say think of it this way: Half the new businesses in Chicago and the state of Illinois come from immigrants, nearly half," he added. "Half the patents at the University of Illinois come from immigrants, and so we want to continue to welcome people, welcome their ideas, welcome their families to the city of Chicago, who want to build the American dream for their children and their grandchildren."
"Chicago was built on the back of immigrants and our future is hitched to the wagon of immigrants who come to the city," Emanuel continued. "I would say that the approach of penalizing cities, cities that are driving the economy, driving the energy of the United States – and they do it because we bring people of all different backgrounds to work together – that's just the wrong approach."
Chicago is not alone in its immigration policies, as more than 200 jurisdictions nationwide have declared sanctuary status, including New York City, Los Angeles and more, with some expected to follow Chicago in filing suit.