Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Administration: Sanctuary Cities

Last week, a federal court ruled against the Trump Administration’s attempt to punish law enforcement working in “sanctuary cities,” upholding a district court decision. The Trump Administration policy set to remove federal funding from city law enforcement agencies as a way to pressure state and local authorities to assist Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers with federal immigration cases.

The Case

In an attempt to force local and state compliance with immigration investigations, the Attorney General imposed conditions for the Byrne JAG grant, a federal fund for law enforcement entities. The City of Chicago, passed a Welcoming City Ordinance, which protected residents from revealing their legal status and prohibited officers from detaining individuals based solely on the question of that individual’s status. The city could therefore, not comply with the conditions set by the Attorney General and filed suit.


According to the Washington Post, a three-judge panel on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously ruled against the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. The court found that the Department of Justice had overstepped separations of powers, affirming the ruling of the district court. The judges agreed that the matter before the court did not relate to the validity of sanctuary cities, or city that do not actively assist in federal immigration investigations. Instead, the matter concerned the very “bedrock principles of our nation.” The judges concluded that the Justice Department could not withhold funds based upon an immigration matter, strictly because the Constitution enumerates the power of funding to the legislative branch. The federal funds, of which the Justice Department attempted to withhold, are allocated to peacekeeping efforts by Congress without any condition related to immigration matters. Thus, the Department of Justice was outside its power to deny cities of federal funding based on sanctuary status.