April 20 (UPI) — A federal appeals court in Illinois upheld a nationwide injunction Thursday that blocks the Trump administration from withholding federal money to hundreds of “sanctuary cities” in the United States.
The grant money, which comes from a program called the Byrne JAG, is the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local governments.
Last year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department would withhold funds unless “sanctuary cities” comply with detainer orders from the Department of Homeland Security in deporting undocumented immigrants.
“Sanctuary cities” have written or unwritten municipal policies against complying with such orders, arguing the potential unintended consequences pose a community danger. Some of the largest U.S. cities — including New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco — have “sanctuary” status.
Thursday, appellate Judge Ilana Rovner made clear in the opinion the court’s role in this case is not to assess immigration policies, but evaluate separation of powers at the federal and local levels.
“The founders of our country well understood that the concentration of power threatens individual liberty established a bulwark against such tyranny by creating a separation of powers among the branches of government,” Rovner wrote in the court’s decision.
The decision affirms lower court rulings last year that issued a national injunction against the Trump administration policy.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said previously Sessions’ move was unlawful and unconstitutional. Thursday, he said the decision confirms Chicago is on solid ground, legally and morally.
“We will not be bullied, intimidated or coerced into making a false choice between our values as a welcoming city and the principles of community policing,” he said in a news release.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said the Trump administration had exceeded its legal authority by trying to cut off federal funds that police use to fight violence in Chicago.
“It was a dangerous and irresponsible decision to pressure local communities to join in the president’s mass deportation agenda, and I’m glad the 7th Circuit has upheld this injunction,” Durbin said.
The Trump administration has argued that sanctuary policies endanger law enforcement officers and protects immigrant offenders who could’ve been deported after their first arrest.
Neither the White House nor Justice Department immediately responded to the court’s ruling.