A federal judge on Friday barred the U.S. Justice Department from denying public-safety grants to so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration.
The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber was in response to a legal challenge brought by Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States, but the judge ruled that his order would be applied on a nationwide basis.
Chicago sued in August after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would bar cities from receiving certain grants unless they allowed federal immigration authorities unlimited access to local jails and provided 48 hours' notice before releasing anyone wanted for immigration violations.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed Friday's decision at a City Hall news conference as "an affirmation of the rule of law."
"It’s an assertion of our most fundamental American values and it’s an unambiguous, clear rejection of the false choice that the Trump Justice Department wanted Chicago to make between our values, our principles and our priorities,” Emanuel said.
President Donald Trump has made tougher immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his campaign and presidency, along with a pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
As part of that policy, the Justice Department has sought to punish cities and other local jurisdictions that have joined a growing "sanctuary" movement aimed at shielding illegal immigrants from stepped-up deportation efforts.
In granting his injunction, Judge Leinenweber found that the city of Chicago has established "a likelihood of success" in prevailing on the merits of its case once the lawsuit is considered in its entirety.
The Trump administration has argued that its deportation crackdown is focused on illegal immigrants convicted of serious crimes, and that public safety is jeopardized when police refuse to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of plans to release such a person from local custody.
But critics counter that enlisting police cooperation in rounding up immigrants for removal undermines communities' trust in local law enforcement, particularly among Latinos, and they have questioned whether the administration is really targeting dangerous criminals.
Trump's opponents also say there is no correlation between immigration and violent crime, citing a sharp drop in homicides in Los Angeles since the early 1990s, despite embracing the sanctuary cities movement.
The Justice Department grants at issue typically are used to help police improve crime-fighting techniques, buy new equipment and assist victims of crime.
Friday's injunction would prevent the department from wielding the threat of withholding such grants as punishment against any of the dozens of cities that have taken a stance similar to that of Chicago, including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New Orleans.
Police agencies in those jurisdictions have generally barred their officers from routinely checking individuals' immigration status when making arrests or traffic stops. And they have refused to keep anyone locked up longer than otherwise warranted at the request of federal agents seeking to deport them.
(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Writing; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Grant McCool)