A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled Thursday against the Trump administration’s effort to withhold federal funds for law enforcement from “sanctuary cities” — saying the term itself is an unfair attack on local authorities.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled unanimously against the Justice Department, saying the administration wrongly sought to use “the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement.” All three of the judges who issued the opinion were appointed by Republican presidents.
The ruling marks the first time that a federal appeals court has weighed in on the fight between state and local governments — many of them run by Democrats — and the Trump administration over how much local police must help federal agents capture suspected undocumented immigrants. A similar case is pending in federal courts in California.
In the Chicago case, the judges found that Attorney General Jeff Sessions wrongly tried to assume a power that belongs to Congress — the ability to grant or withhold federal funds.
“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 judges wrote.
Trump and other conservatives who have pushed for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants have used the term sanctuary cities to describe jurisdictions that don’t notify federal immigration agents when they have taken into custody possible undocumented aliens unless they have some reason to think the person poses a threat to public safety, such as an outstanding felony warrant.
The term sanctuary cities, the judges wrote, “is commonly misunderstood.” Chicago “does not interfere in any way with the federal government’s lawful pursuit of its civil immigration activities, and presence in such localities will not immunize anyone to the reach of the federal government. . . . The federal government can and does freely operate in ‘sanctuary’ localities.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett