It looks like the fight between sanctuary cities and the Trump administration is heating up.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel intends to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration. The suit is a result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ announcement that he will withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities which protect illegal immigrants from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
In an interview with WLS Radio in Chicago, Emanuel stated: “We’re not going to actually auction off our values as a city, so Monday morning the City of Chicago is going to court. We’re going to take the Justice Department to court based on this.” The mayor also argued that the Trump administration’s actions are “unlawful and unconstitutional.”
In July, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would withhold Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to cities whose law enforcement agencies refuse to work with ICE to prevent illegal immigration. The federal government mandates that these agencies provide ICE with notice when they have a potential illegal immigrant in their custody. In cities like Chicago, the local police have failed to comply with the federal government. Additionally, many of these agencies have kept ICE agents from entering local jails to interview suspects.
The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant is funding designed to help various law enforcement agencies across the country. These grants are typically used to buy police vehicles and other equipment. The amount of funding that Chicago would receive from the grant accounts for less than one percent of the city’s budget. The Chicago Tribune points out that this lawsuit could benefit Emanuel politically. Since the grant only accounts for a small percentage of the city’s budget, he can afford to lose the funding while positioning himself as a “high-profile bulwark” against the Trump administration — which could help him court more Hispanic voters.
The Justice Department has issued similar warnings to other cities as well. These include Baltimore, San Bernardino, Albuquerque, and Stockton, CA. These cities have some of the highest crime rates in the nation. And Chicago is not alone in planning a lawsuit against the Trump administration. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has also stated that he is considering suing the government.
Naturally, many on the left argue that the president does not have the constitutional authority to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities. The New York Times published a piece indicating that the executive branch does not have the power to cut funding from cities to enforce federal laws. In the article, they state that authority to remove funding lies with Congress through their constitutional “spending power.” The Times goes on to say that if Congress wishes to put certain conditions on the funds that states receive, the conditions must be unambiguous. This means that states can “make a knowing decision, cognizant of the consequences of their choice to accept federal funds. If true, this could put a damper on the President’s plans — or not. But there is more to this story.
In June, the House of Representatives voted to pass the “No Sanctuary For Criminals Act,” by a 228 – 195 vote. If this bill passes the Senate, it would actually remove funding from sanctuary cities. Liberty Nation’s James Fite reports:
H.R. 3003, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, contains a section named for Sarah Root, killed by an illegal charged with drunk driving, and Grant Ronnebeck, who was murdered by an illegal alien and self-proclaimed Sinaloa Cartel member out on bail pending his removal. This bill would make good on President Trump’s promise to pull all federal funding earmarked for law enforcement in so-called sanctuary cities.
This law would likely put the issue to rest, for if Congress has the authority to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, the lawsuits are not likely to succeed. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill soon.
During the 2016 campaign, President Trump repeatedly vowed to reduce illegal immigration and enable ICE to do its job. Sessions’ announcement is proof that the president is making good on his promise. It is not yet clear whether or not withholding funds will put enough pressure on the cities in question — like Emanuel; other mayors might use this issue for their political purposes. However, it is at the very least a step in the right direction.