[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] on Thursday granted [opinion, PDF] a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s attempt to punish so-called “sanctuary cities.”
The lawsuit was filed by the city of Chicago after the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] placed conditions on the receipt of funds from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, a fund which, according to the opinion, allocates substantial funds to state and local law enforcement for equipment, personnel, training and other uses. Under the order of the DOJ, if a city did not allow immigration authorities access to local prisons and give federal authorities 48-hour notice before an illegal immigrant who is wanted is released, they would not receive these funds.
Chicago challenged these actions as unconstitutional. In framing the issue, the court stated that:
Our role in this case is not to assess the optimal immigration policies for our country; that is not before us today. Rather, the issue before us strikes at one of the bedrock principles of our nation, the protection of which transcends political party affiliation and rests at the heart of our system of government—the separation of powers.
The Court found that placing conditions on the receipt of these funds and mandating compliance with that policy “all without the authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators” was likely unconstitutional. In reaching its conclusion, the court noted that the power to control spending, known more formally as the “power of the purse,” rests with Congress under the constitution. As Congress “repeatedly refused to approve of measures that would tie funding to state and local immigration policies” and, furthermore, never gave the DOJ the authority to impose these conditions, the policies likely violated the separation of powers.