Chicago to file lawsuit over sanctuary cities threat

Michael Tarm and Sophia Tareen
Associated Press

Chicago — Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken his fight against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies to court, with Chicago becoming one of the first cities Monday to sue over what many U.S. cities argue are illegal bids to withhold public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities.

Hours later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit back at Chicago, saying the Trump 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.”

“So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars,” he said in a toughly worded statement.

A 46-page lawsuit, which names Sessions, was filed earlier Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago a day after Emanuel announced the litigation and said the city won’t “be blackmailed” into changing its values as a city welcoming of immigrants.

It’s the latest round in a battle pitting several U.S. cities against the Trump administration. The cities have opted to limit cooperation with government enforcement of immigration law while federal officials threaten to withhold funding if those cities don’t comply.

While estimates vary, there are thought to be about300 jurisdictions — including cities and counties — with sanctuary-like policies. Among the other the bigger U.S. cities with such policies are New York and Philadelphia.

A first order of business now that Chicago’s suit has been filed will be to ask a judge to put a freeze on the policy as the civil case plays out, said Edward Siskel, the head of City Hall’s legal department. That request for a preliminary injunction could be made within days.

Chicago has received the grant funds at the heart of the lawsuit since 2005. It spent $33 million in grants to buy nearly 1,000 police cars in that 12-year period; it got $2.3 million last year. In addition to cars, funds were also used for radios and SWAT equipment.

While the grant money amounts to a fraction of Chicago’s public safety budget, Emanuel has said fighting the government now could help prevent the withholding of more money later. He described the Trump measures so far as just “the camel’s nose under the tent.”

In his Monday statement, Sessions said Chicago stood out in its “open hostility” to enforcing immigration laws.

“To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system,” he said.

Chicago’s suit focuses on new conditions set by Sessions for cities to qualify for grant money. They include the sharing immigration-status records with federal agencies, providing 48-hours notice of a detainee’s release if immigration violations are suspected and giving federal agents unfettered access to jails.