CHICAGO (AP) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Chicago is taking his fight against President Donald Trump's immigration policies to court, becoming one of the first cities to sue the government what many U.S. cities argue are illegal bids to withhold public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities.
The lawsuit is expected to be filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago Monday, a day after Emanuel announced the litigation and said Chicago won't "be blackmailed" into changing its values as a welcoming city. He argued it's unconstitutional for a city "to be coerced on a policy."
Chicago officials say there are new qualifications for a grant that requires cities to share information with U.S. immigration authorities, which they allege are unconstitutional. Chicago received over $2 million in such grants last year. They were used for buying police vehicles.
Those amounts of money are relatively small, but Chicago leaders say they fear more impactful restrictions could be coming and so they hope to establish in court that such government measures are illegal.
It is the latest round in a battle between several major U.S. cities and the Trump administration, with federal officials threatening for months to withhold funding for sanctuary cities, saying they don't comply with federal laws.
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said local governments would lose the money if they do not give advance notice when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from custody. He also wants immigration agents to have access to local jails.
Chicago law prohibits police from providing Immigration and Customs officials access to people in police custody, unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions. Local police are also barred from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for interviews or investigations and from responding to ICE inquiries or talking to ICE officials about a person's custody status or release date.
Authorities contend the policy helps encourage residents of the immigrant community to inform police when they are victims of crimes.
Asked to comment on Emanuel's statement, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Ian D. Prior said via email over the weekend that "more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined" in 2016. He added "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."
In March, the Justice Department sent letters to officials in California and major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, all places the Justice Department's inspector general has identified as limiting the information local law enforcement can provide to federal immigration authorities about those in their custody.
The department warned that the administration will punish communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally. But some of the localities remained defiant, despite risking the loss of funds that police agencies use to pay for everything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.