Judge Blocks Trump, Sessions on Sanctuary Cities Funding

A Reagan-appointed federal judge has blocked the Trump administration from implementing a plan to deny federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” saying that the city of Chicago is likely to win on the merits because the DOJ is overstepping its authority.

Credit: MiguelB
Credit: MiguelB

A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s rules requiring so-called sanctuary cities to help enforce federal immigration laws in order to receive funding.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new rules governing DOJ law enforcement grants, The Chicago Tribune reports.

The city of Chicago sued the Trump administration last month over the DOJ’s threat to withhold those grants from “sanctuary cities,” which are cities that refuse to help federal authorities enforce immigration laws.

Leinenweber said in his 41-page ruling that Chicago had shown a “likelihood of success” in its arguments that Sessions exceeded his authority in July when he announced that the DOJ would withhold public safety grants to sanctuary cities.

This follows a similar ruling in Texas from a couple weeks ago. There are several other cases pending in different states, but this is a national injunction. I’m sure the DOJ will appeal, which would go to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. In essence, the court said that Congress could pass a law to do what the DOJ did, but the executive branch does not have the authority to do so on its own because the spending power rests with Congress, not the executive branch.

Congress can, of course, delegate such authority to the executive branch, but the judge ruled that the legal statute in question does not do so. Reading the statute the way the DOJ wants it read, the judge said, “results in multiple incongruities within the text,” including the fact that it “ignores the ostensibly clear decision by
Congress to withhold comparable authority.” In short, Congress gave explicit authority to the DOJ to set special standards on the giving of other justice grants to states and cities, but not to the grant the DOJ has threatened to withhold (the Byrne/JAG grant). “The Executive Branch cannot impose the conditions without Congressional authority, and that authority has not been conferred,” the judge said.

You can read the full ruling here. You can expect Trump to rage against the judge on Twitter.

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