Recently as of the last week of March 2020, the Seventh Circuit blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to force sanctuary cities to follow and abide by federal immigration policies which place restrictions on certain conditions related to public safety funds. This ruling affirmed a lower court’s ruling which blocked the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) compelling grant recipients such as Chicago to cooperate with federal immigration priorities, saying the DOJ hadn’t cited any evidence that Congress had granted the agency the power to impose the rules.

The panel released its verdict on its ruling on separation of powers, finding that while the executive branch does have significant agency in the realm of immigration, it does not have Congress’ funding leverage and cannot withhold Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants. The decision diverged from one made by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in February, which sided with the Trump administration in a separate lawsuit to say the government could block funding from New York City and seven states that had sanctuary policies. The earlier decision, which applied to New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island, overturned lower-court decisions that had ruled in favor of the states. The initial lawsuit began in 2017 after the localities sued the Trump administration for creating a system to streamline the transfer of illegal immigrants from local jails to federal immigration authorities.

The Second Circuit court ruling in February found that the Department of Justice can withhold millions in federal grant money from New York City and seven states unless they cooperate with immigration authorities. However, now the Seventh Circuit court ruling majority asserted this April 2020, “But states do not forfeit all autonomy over their own police power merely by accepting federal grants,” the Seventh Circuit majority said Thursday. “And the Attorney General’s perception of the urgency of immigration enforcement does not corral for the executive branch the powers entrusted to the legislative branch.” The DOJ is prevented nationally from imposing certain conditions on the issuance of grants to the states a favorable outcome for sanctuary cities from the legal fight that began in 2017.

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