Emanuel seeks to block feds from imposing new grant rules on sanctuary cities
Aug. 11--Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has asked a federal judge to stop President Donald Trump's Justice Department from withholding some grant money from so-called sanctuary cities.
As expected, the city filed a motion Thursday with U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, requesting an injunction. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has moved to take away some public safety money from cities like Chicago that he says don't sufficiently cooperate with federal immigration agents seeking to deport people in the country illegally.
Applications for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant are due by Sept. 5. The Emanuel administration doesn't want to lose the roughly $3 million in grants for purchasing squad cars and other police equipment while the city's lawsuit challenging the new Justice Department rules proceeds.
In its motion for the injunction, the city contends it likely will eventually win the lawsuit because the Justice Department is trying to use the grants as "a policy cudgel" by imposing substantive conditions on cities applying for them, even though the program's rules don't allow it.
"Formula grants like the Byrne JAG are by definition inconsistent with agency authority to impose substantive policy conditions: Such grants 'are not awarded at the discretion of a state or federal agency, but are awarded pursuant to a statutory formula,' " the motion states.
Sessions announced last month that local governments would lose the grants if they do not give notice when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from custody and allow immigration agents access to local jails. Responding this week to Chicago's lawsuit, the attorney general said "no amount of federal taxpayer dollars will help a city that refuses to help its own residents."
Though the Byrne grant is a miniscule part of Chicago's $9.8 billion municipal budget, Emanuel has framed the lawsuit as a rallying cry as he works to position himself at the forefront of big-city mayors who have vowed to defy Trump's immigration policies.
The mayor received widespread attention after telling a reporter last week that his administration planned to file the suit. He held a rare Sunday news conference at City Hall last weekend to preview the move. Then, City Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel held his own news conference at the Dirksen Federal Building on Monday morning when the suit was filed.