The city of Chicago on Monday followed through with its threat to sue the Department of Justice over its crackdown on “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleges that the Justice Department illegally and unconstitutionally attached conditions to a federal law enforcement grant program by requiring cities and counties to assist federal immigration authorities.
“These new conditions also fly in the face of longstanding City policy that promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities, ensures access to essential city services for all residents, and makes all Chicagoans safer,” the civil complaint states.
The suit seeks a court order blocking the Justice Department from enforcing conditions announced last month to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told CNN on Monday that the Justice Department policy requires the city to choose between its values and its request for $3.2 million to buy new police vehicles. The application deadline is September 5.
“It’s a false choice, and it actually undermines our actual public safety agenda,” he said.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, suggested over the weekend that Emanuel is more interested in protecting illegal immigrants than he is in combating off-the-charts violence plaguing the city.
“In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined,” she said in a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times. “So it’s especially tragic that the mayor is less concerned with that staggering figure than he is spending time and taxpayer money protecting criminal aliens and putting Chicago’s law enforcement at greater risk.”
The city makes two main arguments, one constitutional and one practical. It maintains that the Fourth Amendment prohibits police from holding people on behalf of the federal government for suspected immigration violations without a judicial warrant. And it argues that it could not give 48 hours’ notice as requested by the Justice Department because it does not run a jail — only short-term lockups where prisoners are held only long enough to process their arrests.
The suit states that police do not ask about immigration status and, therefore, have no information to share with federal authorities. If police officers happen to know the immigration status of a suspect, the city does not prohibit them from informing Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. That is the requirement under the federal law cited by the Justice Department, according to the suit.
“It’s a silly argument. If they don’t keep people for two days, how are their rights going to be violated? Why would they have to sue?”
A pair of legal experts cast doubt on the city’s case. Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, questioned why the city needs to challenge the Justice Department in court if it does not jail prisoners beyond two days.
“It’s a silly argument,” he said. “If they don’t keep people for two days, how are their rights going to be violated? Why would they have to sue?”
Christopher Hajec, director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, disputed the city’s constitutional argument that it would be violating the rights of illegal immigrants to hold them for ICE.
“It would not be a Fourth Amendment violation,” he told LifeZette. “It’s not a Fourth Amendment violation for the feds to hold someone for an immigration violation. So it’s not a Fourth Amendment violation for state and local authorities to assist.”
Chicago interprets the federal statute narrowly. It argues that the Justice Department improperly wants to add conditions not authorized by Congress — the requirement that grant recipients give 48 hours’ notice before releasing an illegal immigrant and giving ICE access to local law enforcement facilities and to any prisoner held in them.
In his interview with CNN, Emanuel obliterated any distinction between legal immigrants and those who enter the United State without authorization.
“Chicago’s a welcoming city to immigrants across the globe, whether you’re from Poland or Pakistan, Mexico or Moldova, where my grandfather came, or whether you’re from Ireland or India,” he said. “We want you to come to Chicago if you believe in the American dream.”
Von Spakovsky acknowledged that the federal government has its work cut out in forcing cooperation from local officials who adopt Emanuel’s position.
“They’re going to have a difficult time, but there are all kinds of steps they can take, and this is one of them,” he said.
Von Spakovsky said Congress should consider tying immigration cooperation to other funding sources on which cities and counties depend.
Hajec said Emanuel’s position — protecting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes — is inexplicable.
“They have a very extreme position on that issue,” he said. “That’s very odd.”