ADEA Washington Update

A Win and a Loss for Sanctuary Cities

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SanctuaryProtestA U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the Trump Administration cannot withhold federal public safety funds from so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents. The Sept. 15 ruling by Judge Harry Leinenweber states that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not have the authority to restrict payment of federal law enforcement grants and that doing so would violate the Constitution’s separation of powers. Judge Leinenweber’s injunction against the Administration applies nationwide. The City of Chicago had asked for the preliminary injunction until its lawsuit against the Justice Department is completed. 

The Justice Department would have required sanctuary cities to give federal officials 48-hours notice when releasing potentially undocumented individuals from custody. The administration threatened to withhold public safety funds, known as Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, if such notice was not given or if federal immigration officials were not given access to local jails.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, California State legislators passed a “sanctuary state” bill to protect undocumented immigrants throughout the state. This bill limits state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities and prevents officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.

Only nine days later, a federal appeals court gave Texas more autonomy to enforce a ban on sanctuary cities—backed by the Trump administration. The court held that Texas can require its law enforcement to honor federal immigration requests to detain people in local jails for possible deportation.

In a unanimous ruling, the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state can enforce two sections of the law, allowing some controversial portions of the law to go into effect but limiting their punitive effects. The court held that local agencies must cooperate “according to existing ICE detainer practice and law.”

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton hailed the latest decision as allowing the state to “enforce the core” of the law.  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling negates some of U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia's Aug. 31 halt to much of the law one day before it was to go into effect.

The law’s opponents argue it violates the Fourth Amendment by requiring police to detain people suspected of illegal immigration without probable cause. They also say it puts local police in the federal role of immigration enforcement officers and is unconstitutionally vague as to exactly when a local law enforcement officer would be in violation of the law.

ACLU Attorney Lee Gelernt also says the Circuit Court’s ruling “significantly narrowed” what is allowed to take effect for now. The decision is a temporary ruling until oral arguments, set to take place in the appeals court in November.

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