Federal judge rules for Philadelphia in ‘sanctuary city’ case
© WikiMedia (Bruce Emmerling)

Federal judge rules for Philadelphia in ‘sanctuary city’ case

Judge Michael Baylson, of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that Philadelphia has the right to maintain its status as a sanctuary city while still receiving federal funding.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the defendant, had said cities would cease to receive federal funding unless the cities adhere to the following conditions:

a. The City must provide to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) access to City prisons to interview individuals of interest to ICE.

b. The City must provide advance notice to ICE of release from City prisons of aliens whose “scheduled release date and time” ICE requests.

c. The City must certify compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, a statute which purports to prohibit the City from restrictions on disclosure of information as to the citizenship or immigration status of any “person.”

The court ruled that the conditions for receiving federal funding were unreasonable and violated the Administrative Procedure Act [text] because the conditions were “arbitrary and capricious.” The court found that the attorney general’s policy did not serve make the city of Philadelphia safer and that Philadelphia’s sanctuary cities policy was reasonable. Also, the court found the conditions violated the constitution because the federal government cannot use federal funds to coerce states.

Sanctuary cities have been the topic of frequent federal litigation. In March a federal appeals court upheld [JURIST report] a law banning sanctuary cities. In November a federal judge in California struck down [JURIST report] an executive order to withdraw funding from sanctuary cities. In September a federal judge in Illinois ruled [JURIST report] that the Trump administration cannot withhold grants from sanctuary cities.