A federal judge showed support for sanctuary cities Thursday when he ridiculed Department of Justice attorneys for arguing in favor of federal penalties against sanctuary jurisdictions.
U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson is presiding over the DOJ’s ongoing dispute with Philadelphia over whether Sessions can withhold funds from cities that ignore federal immigration law. DOJ attorneys presented a letter purporting to show that Philadelphia was not meeting requirements for a federal law enforcement grant and Baylson’s response made it very clear where he stood on the case, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“Your letter is wrong,” said Baylson said in court. “You don’t pay attention to what’s going on in Philadelphia.”
The DOJ will be forced to pay $1.6 million if Baylson rules in favor of Philadelphia, and the ruling could have wide implications for other sanctuary cities seeking the same federal grant.
Sessions wants to make the federal funds contingent on cities sharing immigration status data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, not barring ICE officials access to police stations, and giving ICE officials 48 hours notice before releasing illegal immigrants from detainment. The DOJ letter shows that Philadelphia limits access to illegal immigrant detainees for ICE agents.
Current city policy mandates that police only turn illegal immigrants over to ICE when the agent comes with a warrant signed by a judge, or if the immigrant has committed a serious felony. Clearly in violation of the the federal requirements, Philadelphia and other cities argue Sessions doesn’t have the authority to impose the requirements.
Chicago successfully argued that the requirements were unconstitutional in September, with a federal judge issuing a nationwide block of two of Sessions’ requirements. DOJ attorneys hope to have better luck in their case against Philadelphia, however.
“There are a lot of federal grants with strings attached,” said DOJ lawyer Chad Readler said Thursday. “If you don’t like the strings, the city won’t get the grant.”
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