CHICAGO – Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Department of Justice cannot legally withhold law enforcement funding from cities that have refused to enlist their local police in federal immigration enforcement. The court upheld a federal district court’s nationwide injunction in the case.
“We are glad to see the appellate court reaffirm that local communities get to decide the best strategies for promoting public safety without being coerced into fulfilling this administration’s immoral immigration agenda,” said NIJC Associate Director of Litigation Mark Fleming, who along with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. “Our communities are safer when everyone feels they can go to the police for help, rather than fear that any interaction with the police will result in deportation and family separation.”
The City of Chicago sued the U.S. Department of Justice in August 2017 after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he would cut federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program funding to “sanctuary” cities that refuse to honor immigration detainers, warrantless requests made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to local law enforcement agencies to hold individuals for 48 hours beyond when they normally would be released from local custody. At issue was Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which limits the city’s police from detaining and transferring individuals over to ICE for civil immigration violations.
The unanimous decision, by a three-judge panel comprised of all Republican appointees, emphasizes that the core issue at hand, and one of utmost importance, is separation of powers. The court states, “If the Executive Branch can determine policy, and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without the authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, that check against tyranny is forsaken.”
This decision follows similar victories in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.