By: Zack Duvall
The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, along with other high- ranking city officials filed a federal lawsuit in a Illinois U.S. District Court that looks to stop the White House from implementing new guidelines aimed at withholding federal funds from municipalities that fail to enforce federal immigration laws.
Chicago, a city where elected officials have long claimed to be a “sanctuary” for people in the U.S. illegally, has been the center of heated national debate over the policy as the city has seen a sharp uptick in violent crime and murders, and has a very large illegal immigrant population that the Justice Department has said includes many known gang members and drug traffickers.
City officials filed the lawsuit in federal court on Monday claiming that the new policy by the Trump administration violates constitutional statues that prohibit the federal government from with-holding appropriated money for municipalities after it had been approved by the House appropriations committees. The Justice department,however, pushes back on that claim saying that failure by the city to enforce federal law, allows for federal authorities to withhold funds as leverage, especially funds designated for law enforcement purposes.
“This 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.” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement released Monday afternoon. He went on to call the situation in Chicago a “culture of lawlessness” and vowed to fight the “sanctuary city” policy moving forward.
However, City officials and the Mayor’s office took to various outlets to slam the latest move by the administration as one that was creating a “climate of fear” and said that the new conditions for federal funding would greatly damage the relationship between local law enforcement and the city’s various immigrant communities.
“These new conditions fly in the face of longstanding city policy that promotes cooperation between law enforcement and immigrants within our communities.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a written statement on Friday after the funding changes were implemented by the White House. Emanuel’s senior legal advisor, Ed Siskel, also slammed the latest effort to combat illegal immigration by the Trump administration during a news conference Monday morning after filing the court documents bringing about the lawsuit.
“We are bringing this legal challenge because the rhetoric, the threats from this administration embodied in these new conditions imposed on unrelated public safety grant funds are breeding a culture and climate of fear.” Siskel said during his statement to reporters.
The grant that is at the heart of the lawsuit, and being withheld by the Trump administration, is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, a $3.2 million windfall the officials had planned to use to buy new equipment for police precincts in the city.
The lawsuit is the first legal challenge to the administration’s plan to use the power of the purse in an effort to reign in various cities around the nation, that have been openly vocal against the White House’s plan to crackdown on illegal immigration, and do not communicate with federal agencies when local law enforcement detains a person in the country illegally.
No word from officials as to what, if any, other municipalities were at immediate risk of losing federal funding, or a timeline on when those cities and counties would be identified.