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AG Sessions heading to Supreme Court over Chicago’s sanctuary city policy

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants the Supreme Court to intervene in a dispute over the Chicago sanctuary city ordinance. | AP file photo

Complaining the federal government has been “thwarted” in its attempt to enforce immigration laws, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene Monday in his feud with Chicago over so-called sanctuary city policies.

Sessions wants the high court to limit to Chicago a nationwide injunction blocking him from applying new conditions to grant money as he tries to force cities to cooperate with immigration authorities.

But in a 41-page application to the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Noel Francisco also framed the case as a larger fight over the use of sweeping, “categorical” orders from district courts. He argued the high court should “address the propriety of enjoining a federal immigration policy everywhere at the behest of one litigant.”

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber handed down the injunction in the Chicago case last September. Sessions has also tried, without success, to persuade the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to limit the injunction to the city.

The 7th Circuit said it is watching for the Supreme Court to address President Donald Trump’s travel ban in a case that also raised questions about overbroad injunctions by district courts. The appeals court said it plans to reconsider whether the Chicago injunction should apply nationwide. However, Sessions wants the ban temporarily limited in the meantime.

The grant at issue here is the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, used by local governments for law enforcement needs like police cruisers, body cameras and community programs aimed at reducing violence.

Leinenweber’s ruling stopped Sessions from attaching two new conditions to the grant. One of them 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.”

Francisco wrote Monday that the new conditions require “a basic level of cooperation with federal agencies charged with enforcing the Nation’s immigration laws.” He also said the injunction has already caused harm to the United States and local governments.

The Justice Department has received nearly 1,000 applications for more than $250 million but has doled none of it out since Leinenweber handed down his injunction, he said. Because local governments could immediately spend the money, he said it would be difficult to enforce the conditions and recover the money if the courts ultimately held in Sessions’ favor.

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