Justice Department Prepared to Take Sanctuary City Fight to the Supreme Court

The issue of the Justice Department’s authority to withhold funding from Chicago as a consequence of its sanctuary policies could be on its way to the Supreme Court if a court of appeals fails to rule today.

In a letter written Thursday, Justice Department lawyer Katherine Twomey Allen told the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals court that other cities that have applied for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance grants are being harmed because distribution of those funds is being delayed due to the ongoing lawsuit against Chicago.

“Further delay in issuance of the grants would hinder the flow of funding to support law-enforcement activity around the country, impose particular burdens for localities with relatively small budgets, and disrupt state grant-making processes under which states issue sub-awards of grant funds,” she said in the letter.

The 7th Circuit was asked to review the merits of a September ruling by U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber that imposes a nationwide injunction, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions petitioned the court to limit the injunction to Chicago until all appeals are heard. On June 4, the court agreed to consider Sessions’ request.

If the 7th Circuit does not respond by close of business Monday, Allen said “the Solicitor General has determined that we will promptly seek relief from the Supreme Court.”

In April, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that blocked Justice from placing conditions on the Byrne Memorial grants, saying the Justice Department lacked any authority to place restrictions on the monies.

In its ruling, the panel asserted that while Sessions had “used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement,” the “power of the purse rests with Congress.”

Attorney General Sessions has argued that guidance passed during the Obama administration stipulates that to be eligible for grants state and local jurisdictions to comply with Section 1373, a federal statute prohibiting local and state governments from enacting laws limiting communications with the Department of Homeland Security on immigration and citizenship matters.

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