A federal appeals court on Thursday said the U.S. Justice Department can not deny public safety grants to so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration.
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.
"We are a country that jealously guards the separation of powers, and we must be ever-vigilant in that endeavor", the court ruled.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel claimed victory over the Trump administration - again - at a City Hall news conference flanked by City Clerk Anna Valencia, a diverse group of alderman, community activists and immigrant groups across the city.
A federal appeals court struck another blow Thursday to the Trump administration's efforts to pressure sanctuary cities, upholding a court order preventing the Justice Department from imposing conditions on grants to cities.
The appeals court ruled the Justice Department effectively usurped Congress' authority to determine how and when federal funds are allocated.
The Seventh Circuit panel, composed of all Republican-appointed judges, also upheld the nationwide scope of the injunction.
"From Day One, we were not gonna allow the Trump Justice Department to either bully or intimidate the city of Chicago off of its values".
"Many in the legal community have expressed concern that the use of nationwide injunctions is inconsistent with the separation of powers, and that their increased use creates a unsafe precedent", O'Malley said.
The decision wasn't a complete defeat for the administration - one of the judges, Daniel A. Manion, sided with the Trump administration's opposition to a lower court judge issuing a nationwide injunction covering the entire United States, rather than a ruling that would apply only to the Chicago area. The ruling noted Congress repeatedly refused to require state and local governments to comply with federal immigration policies in order to receive the law enforcement grants at issue.
Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel said there is "nothing that now prevents" the Justice Department from distributing 2017 public safety grant funds to Chicago and other major cities that have applied for and received those funds on an annual basis.
Sessions has blamed "sanctuary city" policies for crime and gang violence; but defenders of sanctuary city practices say they improve public safety by promoting trust among law enforcement and immigrant communities, and reserving scarce police resources for more urgent crime-fighting needs.
"The attorney general's argument that such sweeping authority over the major source of funding for law enforcement agencies nationwide was provided to the assistant attorney general by merely adding a clause to a sentence in a list of otherwise‐ministerial powers defies reason", the judge said.
"An injunction, particularly a preliminary injunction, is an extreme remedy", Manion wrote.
The lawsuit is part of an ongoing war of words between Emanuel and Sessions, who responded to the lawsuit by blasting a "culture of lawlessness that has beset" Chicago. "The federal government can and does freely operate in "sanctuary" localities".
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