The Trump administration's policy of withholding public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities unless they agree to tougher enforcement of immigration laws is constitutional and also vital to keeping crime in check, the Department of Justice argued in a new filing opposing Chicago's request for a court order freezing the policy.
The 27-page court document was filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where the nation's third largest city sued Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Aug. 7. The new filing responds to Chicago's motion for a preliminary injunction that would halt the safety-grants policy at least until the civil case plays out.
Chicago's lawsuit focuses on conditions set by Sessions for cities to qualify for the grants, including that they give federal agents access to detention facilities. Sessions has said tougher enforcement of immigration laws will help reduce crime. Many cities say there's no evidence that's true.
Thursday's filing argues that tying public safety grants to conditions isn't new. It said cities had to meet more than 50 special conditions, including demonstrating compliance with civil rights laws, to receive grants in 2016, "none of which generated ... legal challenges" from Chicago.
A Friday statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said the Trump administration should "drop these new conditions ... rather than try to salvage its ill-conceived and unlawful attempt to force cities" to choose between public safety funding and providing sanctuary to immigrants.
The Justice Department filing contends Chicago jumped to conclusions about the conditions and sued before the conditions were finalized.
Chicago has received the public safety grants since 2005, spending $33 million to buy police cars during that period; it got $2.3 million last year.
The new filing said Chicago can't point to any irreparable harm justifying an immediate court order halting the policy, saying "the funding at issue under the program amounts to less than one tenth of one percent of the City's budget."