Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit back at the city of Chicago on Monday for filing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice over its policy to withhold federal grant money to sanctuary cities.
"No amount of federal taxpayer dollars will help a city that refuses to help its own residents," Sessions said in a statement Monday night. "This administration is committed to the rule of law and to enforcing the laws established by Congress. To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberatively and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country's lawful immigration system."
"They have demonstrated an open hostility to enforcing laws designed to protect law enforcement and reduce crime, and instead have adopted an official policy of protecting criminal who prey on their own residents," Sessions added.
The city of Chicago sued in federal court Monday, arguing Sessions cannot withhold funding for Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs — a crime-fighting source for local governments — to cities that limit their cooperation with requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Chicago has used the money — $3.2 million last year — for a variety of purposes, including buying SWAT equipment, police vehicles, radios and tasers.
Lawyers for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Corporation Counsel Ed Siskel, and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson filed the 46-page lawsuit and called the grant conditions "unauthorized and unconstitutional."
"Chicago will not be blackmailed into changing our values, and we are and will remain a welcoming city," said Emanuel, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, in a statement.
"The federal government should be working with cities to provide necessary resources to improve public safety, not concocting new schemes to reduce our crime fighting resources. The city of Chicago will continue to stand up to President Trump and his Justice Department to ensure that their misguided policies do not threaten the safety of our residents."
Sessions announced last month the Justice Department will refuse to give Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to so-called sanctuary cities that limit the circumstances in which they work with federal immigration authorities to deport illegal immigrants in local custody.
Chicago prohibits ICE officials from getting access to people in police custody unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions.
Federal appeals courts have ruled complying with detainer requests, as cooperating with requests from ICE are known, is optional for local governments.
Sessions argues Chicago should adopt a tougher immigration policy as it deals with a persistently high murder rate.
"The mayor complains that the federal government's focus on enforcing the law would require a ‘reordering of law enforcement practice in Chicago,'" Sessions said. "But that's just what Chicago needs: a recommitment to the rule of law and to policies that rollback the culture of lawlessness that has beset the city. This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law. So it's this simple: Comply with the law or forgo taxpayer dollars."