U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions tried to withhold federal grants to cities and states that refuse to follow federal immigration laws but a federal appeals court ruled against the Trump administration. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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A federal appeals court ruled against the Trump administration on Thursday, upholding an injunction that prevents the White House from withholding federal grants to cities and states that refuse to follow federal immigration laws. The lawsuit was brought by the city of Chicago against Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Here’s what you need to know
Sessions had tried to keep Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs (Byrne JAG) funds from state and local governments that refuse to cooperate with the federal government on the immigration policy.
The Byrne JAG grant is "the primary provider of federal criminal justice funding to state and local governments," according to the ruling.
On July 25, 2017, Sessions released a DOJ statement that announced that recipients of the Byrne JAG grants “will be notified of new conditions of their grants that will increase information sharing between federal, state, and local law enforcement, ensuring that federal immigration authorities have the information they need to enforce immigration laws and keep our communities safe.”
The statement quoted Sessions as saying that “[s]o-called 'sanctuary' policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes.” He added:
“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. This is consistent with long-established cooperative principles among law enforcement agencies. This is what the American people should be able to expect from their cities and states, and these long overdue requirements will help us take down MS-13 and other violent transnational gangs, and make our country safer."
What did the appeals court rule?
But Thursday's decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals argued that this is unconstitutional. The court argued that the power to put restrictions on funding like this rests solely with Congress:
“The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement. But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement conditions on the receipt of such funds. In fact, Congress repeatedly refused to approve of measures that would tie funding to state and local immigration policies. Nor, as we will discuss, did Congress authorize the Attorney General to impose such conditions. It falls to us, the judiciary, as the remaining branch of the government, to act as a check on such usurpation of power. We are a country that jealously guards the separation of powers, and we must be ever‐vigilant in that endeavor.”
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