Judge blocks Trump administration's attempt to defund sanctuary city's justice system

Philadelphia has limited its cooperation with immigration authorities to protect law-abiding undocumented immigrants

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Wednesday 15 November 2017 23:38 GMT
Latino community members and leaders attend a news conference discussing US immigration policies and the safety of their families on 16 February 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Latino community members and leaders attend a news conference discussing US immigration policies and the safety of their families on 16 February 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to stop federal funding for the Philadelphia’s legal justice system over the city’s status as a ‘sanctuary city’.

The Pennsylvania city has vowed to protect the confidential information of undocumented immigrants. Other sanctuary cities include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minneapolis to name a few.

The 128-page ruling by US District Judge Michael Baylson - which includes everything from legal precedent to Faust, Greek mythology, and New Testament references - found that federal grants cannot be withheld even though Philadelphia police will not cooperate with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' policy.

The US Department of Justice chief had declared that federal police-related grants would be withheld from any city police who refused to help federal immigration authorities actively looking to arrest and deport immigrants who entered the country without proper paperwork.

The money will be used for “police overtime and equipment enhancements, upgrades to courtroom technology, training for law enforcement, and alternative programming for low level offenders,” according to a statement sent to The Independent by Mayor Jim Kenney’s office.

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Mr Baylson also recognised the argument used by the city’s lawyers: the grant money was crucial for first responders attempting to save people from opioid overdose by using the pharmaceutical naloxone.

"In this case, given Philadelphia's unique approach to meshing the legitimate needs of the federal government to remove criminal aliens with the City's promotion of health and safety, there is no conflict of significance," Mr Baylson ruled.

The Trump administration has said a major priority is fighting the country’s opioid crisis.

Philadelphia has gotten an average of $2.2 million each year for the past eleven years, according to the mayor’s statement.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the grants in question are worth $1.5 million, a small portion out of the city’s budget of $4.4 billion - but the ruling sends a larger message to the Trump administration and its immigration policies.

Many cities actually do not want to be called ‘sanctuary cities’ because they argue they do not protect criminals regardless of immigration status.

“City officials testified during two days of hearings that they willingly turn over information about undocumented people who have been convicted or who are actively under suspicion of committing a serious crime,” the Inquirer reported.

City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante, pleased with the ruling, said in a statement: “We are in compliance with federal law, and attaching immigration-related conditions to a grant having nothing to do with immigration is harmful to Philadelphians’ safety.”

In September a federal judge ruled against the administration for attempting the same action on the city of Chicago.

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