Judge slaps Chicago with a giant wake-up call over its ‘sanctuary cities’ policy

Chicago just got slapped by a District Court judge over its bid to escape Department of Justice sanctions over its “sanctuary city” status.

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Chicago filed a motion to suspend the policy, but Chicago District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber was having none of it, at least for now, writing in a decision handed down on Thursday that granting an injunction would be premature since the Department of Justice hasn’t technically denied the city a grant.

“Although Chicago argues that the DOJ letter ‘staked out a final view’ on Section 1373, this does not change the fact that DOJ has yet to determine about Chicago’s eligibility for funds,” wrote Leinenweber in his decision, adding, “Litigating a policy position based on a preliminary assessment is premature, and this Court will not do so.”

The DOJ had ruled to cut off federal law enforcement grants for municipalities that are in non-compliance with immigration law.

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Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley issued a positive statement on the ruling Thursday.

“The Justice Department is pleased that the District Court has once again found that conditioning our law enforcement grants on compliance with Section 1373 is lawful. The Department is now one step closer to distributing law enforcement funds to cooperating jurisdictions, as unnecessary litigation—like the motion properly denied today—has delayed that process,” the statement reads.

Various so-called sanctuary cities across the country, including Chicago, are using the courts to fight a Justice Department policy that would tie law enforcement grants to cities’ compliance with federal immigration law.

Leinenweber, an 80-year-old Reagan appointee who also served five terms as a Republican member of the House from 1973 to 1983, has been unpredictable when it comes to the bench.

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In September, the judge issued a ruling that blocked the Trump administration’s rules tying federal immigration law compliance to public safety grants.

At the time, Leinenweber ruled that the city showed a “likelihood of success” demonstrating that the Justice Department exceeded its authority in the matter. Mayor Rahm Emanuel made the case that Chicago would suffer “irreparable harm” with its immigrant community relationships if the city complied with the new standards.

Scott Morefield


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