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Chicago Sues US Over Restricted Funding for 'Sanctuary Cities'

  • VOA News

FILE - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks with members of the media after meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, Dec. 7, 2016.

The city of Chicago has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice over new regulations for a public safety grant Monday.

"These new conditions ... fly in the face of longstanding city policy that promotes cooperation between local law enforcement and immigrant communities," the 46-page lawsuit read.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced Sunday that the city would file the lawsuit, telling a press conference that "Chicago will not let our police officers become political pawns."

The Department of Justice announced in late July new immigration compliance requirements for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) programs which include sharing more information among federal, state, and local law enforcement.

"From now on, the Department will only provide Byrne JAG grants to cities and states that comply with federal law, allow federal immigration access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours notice before they release an illegal alien wanted by federal authorities," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a DOJ statement.

FILE - Migrants attend a workshop for legal advice held by the Familia Latina Unida and Centro Sin Fronteras at Lincoln United Methodist Church in south Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 10, 2016.
FILE - Migrants attend a workshop for legal advice held by the Familia Latina Unida and Centro Sin Fronteras at Lincoln United Methodist Church in south Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 10, 2016.

Some municipalities that are often known as sanctuary cities decline to cooperate with federal requests to detain and hold non-citizens under arrest on charges unrelated to their immigration status, until immigration enforcement officers can take custody and possibly deport them.

In the past, Chicago has used Byrne JAG funds for the purchase of SWAT equipment, police vehicles, radios and tasers. Last year, the city received $2.3 million in Byrne JAG funds.

The Chicago lawsuit argues that the Justice Department would be federalizing local jails and requiring city authorities to violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which requires probable cause for an arrest and blocks what it calls unreasonable search and seizure.

“In 2016, more Chicagoans were murdered than in New York City and Los Angeles combined. So 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,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores told the Chicago Sun-Times in reaction to the suit.

Trump seeking immigration reform

President Donald Trump has made immigration reform one of the key goals of administration, arguing that undocumented migrants are making the U.S. less safe. In addition to cracking down on sanctuary cities, his proposals include building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and expanding requirements for those who want to emigrate to the U.S. legally.

Applications for FY2017 Byrne Grants are due on September 5, 2017. A press release from the Chicago mayor's office says the Byrne JAG program is named for a New York City police officer who was murdered in 1988 while on assignment protecting a Guyanese immigrant who had reported illegal activity to police.

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