Communities

Chicago Plans To Defend Its Sanctuary City Status With A Fat Lawsuit

by Kate Ryan

August 7, 2017
Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Image via Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr.

The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, released a statement on Monday informing the public of the city’s impending lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department. According to the statement, the lawsuit comes in response to a federal proposal to cut funding to self-described sanctuary cities that refuse to assist federal immigration officers with specific — arguably unconstitutional — actions.

According to Reuters, the new policy would require local police to give federal immigration agents unlimited access and a 48-hour heads up before releasing undocumented immigrants. Should they fail to do so, the Justice Department has threatened to pull the $3.2 million in funds the city expects to receive via an Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, states: “These new conditions also fly in the face of longstanding City policy that promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities.”

But it’s not just about Chicago police departments getting the money they need to function properly. Emanuel and his team hope to set the precedent that other sanctuary cities will not stand for these threats either. Emanuel senior legal adviser Ed Siskel told Reuters on Monday, “We are bringing this legal challenge because the rhetoric, the threats from this administration embodied in these new conditions imposed on unrelated public safety grants funds are breeding a culture and climate of fear.”

As we’ve reported in the past, sanctuary cities provide safe spaces for law-abiding undocumented immigrants who would otherwise be targeted by federal agencies. The Trump administration has been unabashed about threatening these cities with budget cuts should they be seen as uncooperative. Despite the threats, it’s not exactly clear how much power the Justice Department actually has when it comes to pulling badly needed funds from major cities. Hopefully this lawsuit will settle the matter once and for all — or at least for now. 

Share image via Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr.

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Chicago Plans To Defend Its Sanctuary City Status With A Fat Lawsuit