Appeals Court Rules Against U.S. on Funds for Sanctuary Cities

(Reuters) -

A U.S. appeals-court on Thursday, upheld an injunction blocking the U.S. Justice Department from denying public safety grants to so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court order, in a case brought by the city of Chicago. The appeals-court on Thursday agreed that the injunction should apply nationally, while the lawsuit proceeds in federal court.

Chicago sued last year, after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would cut off cities from certain Justice Department grants, unless they allowed federal immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails, and provided 48 hours of notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations.

The lawsuit contended that Sessions exceeded his authority by imposing new conditions beyond those which Congress prescribed when it established the grant program.

In its ruling on Thursday, a three-judge Seventh Circuit panel said its role was not to decide national immigration policy, but rather to protect the separation of powers between the branches of the federal government.

“The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement,” the court wrote. “But the power of the purse rests with Congress”

A Justice Department spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, made tougher immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his campaign and presidency, along with a pledge to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border.

All three judges on the Seventh Circuit panel were nominated by Republican presidents. One of the judges, Daniel Manion, said he agreed with an injunction but would have limited its scope only to the city of Chicago.