A City Hall lawyer asked a federal judge Monday for a nationwide injunction that would stop the Trump Administration from denying law enforcement grants to sanctuary cities.
While the Justice Department insists new conditions tied to the grants are justified by law and not the outliers Chicago has made them out to be, City Hall lawyer Ronald Safer said it would “resound in the streets” if Chicago gave up its sanctuary city status.
Safer also warned U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber that, if he sided with the Trump Administration, he “would be the first judge in the nation to endorse this unprecedented seizure of power.”
The lawyers made their comments during nearly two hours of oral arguments in Leinenweber’s courtroom. Leinenweber did not rule but simply told the lawyers, “you will hear from us.”
Chicago sued Sessions last month over new conditions tied to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. One would require the city to give the feds, when requested, a 48-hour heads up of the scheduled release date and time “of an alien in the jurisdiction’s custody.” Another requires federal access to “any correctional or detention facility in order to meet with an alien . . . and inquire as to his or her right to be or remain in the United States.”
Sessions has repeatedly attacked Chicago since the filing of the lawsuit, slamming its “culture of lawlessness” and later declaring that, “for the sake of their city, Chicago’s leaders need to recommit to policies that punish criminals instead of protecting them.”
Meanwhile, the city has applied for the grant while maintaining its opposition to the new conditions.
Thirty-seven local governments have signed on to briefs supporting Chicago. And Monday, Safer told Leinenweber the city faces an “unconstitutional choice” — abandon its sanctuary city policies or forego $1.5 million of what he called “crucial grant dollars.”
“Those dollars are precious,” Safer said. “They will save lives. Only a politician from Washington could dismiss the impact of $1.5 million.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler questioned what irreparable harm could truly come to Chicago if the temporary injunction is not granted, though.
“This is a voluntary, optional program,” Readler said. “They don’t have to take the money.”