Immigration and Citizenship

City of Chicago v. Sessions

In City of Chicago v. Sessions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is considering whether the United States Attorney General can impose funding conditions on local jurisdictions that receive certain federal funding in order to coerce those jurisdictions into adopting immigration policies preferred by President Trump.

Case Summary

The City of Chicago, like many localities across the nation, receives federal funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (“Byrne JAG”) Program to help the City enhance public safety as it sees fit. Byrne JAG grant amounts are calculated using a statutory formula keyed to the jurisdiction’s population and violent crime rate, and there are minimal limits on the public safety and criminal justice uses to which funds may be allocated. Despite this, in July 2017, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions sought to mandate new funding conditions for every Byrne JAG grant in an attempt to coerce cities into changing their immigration policies. The City of Chicago brought suit against Sessions in federal district court challenging his authority to impose the new conditions. The district court ruled for Chicago, and the government appealed to the Seventh Circuit.

CAC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Seventh Circuit on behalf of members of Congress in support of Chicago. In our brief, we explain that in establishing the Byrne JAG grant program, Congress neither imposed the challenged conditions on grant recipients, nor authorized the Attorney General to impose them. Congress designed the program as a formula grant to ensure that states and localities would have maximum flexibility in determining how to best improve public safety in their respective jurisdictions. The Attorney General’s coercive conditions are not only at odds with this flexibility but also undermine public safety in cities like Chicago by decreasing trust and cooperation between the police force and crime victims and witnesses in many neighborhoods. Moreover, as we explain, the statute on which the Attorney General principally relies does not concern either the Byrne JAG program or the Attorney General and thus provides no support for what he is attempting to do here. Finally, we argue that the Attorney General’s attempt to administratively write into law new grant conditions runs afoul of fundamental constitutional principles. The Framers recognized the dangers of concentrated power in the hands of a single government branch, and thus gave the authority to impose conditions on the receipt of federal financial assistance to Congress. The Attorney General’s coercive actions cannot be squared with the constitutional separation-of-powers principles or the Framers’ decision to give Congress the power of the purse.

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