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Judge rules in favor of Philly in ‘sanctuary city’ lawsuit

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The judge says the Department of Justice can’t withhold federal money from Philly

A federal judge ruled in favor of the City of Philadelphia in its lawsuit against the Department of Justice over sanctuary city conditions.
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Philly scored big in a lawsuit against the Trump administration over “sanctuary city” restrictions, with a federal judge ruling in favor of the city over the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On Wednesday, Judge Michael M. Baylson issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the city, ruling that Philadelphia is not a sanctuary city by the Trump administration’s terms and therefore the DOJ can’t withhold more than $1 million in federal grant money from the City of Philadelphia.

Philly doesn’t define itself as a sanctuary city, but has previously clarified that its police officers are prohibited from asking the status of immigrants. The Trump administration defines “sanctuary cities” as those that “violate a federal law requiring local and state governments to share information with federal officials about immigrants’ citizenship or legal status.”

Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General threatened to pull funding from the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program from sanctuary cities. The city subsequently filed a lawsuit in late August over what it called the addition of “unlawful” conditions to the JAG program.

Philadelphia receives $1.6 million in funds from the federal government for this program and on average has been provided $2.2 million over the past 11 years. A lot of this money is put toward police and courtroom upgrades and some programming.

In their lawsuit, the city claimed that DOJ could not attach three immigration-related conditions to its JAG program: 1) The city must gives ICE a heads up of the scheduled release of prisoners of interest within 48 hours; 2) allow ICE “unfettered access” to interview inmates in the prison system; and 3) the city must be in compliance with U.S. Section 1373, a federal immigration law that prohibits local governments passing laws that limit communication with the Department of Homeland Security about immigrants’s statuses.

Judge Baylson agreed with the city on conditions one and two, and also ruled that the city was not in violation U.S. Section 1373.

The ruling does not necessarily mean an end to the city’s lawsuit against DOJ. The Inquirer reports that the federal department is considering its next options. And after the injuction was issued, the DOJ sent out warning letters to 29 other sanctuary cities.

Mayor Jim Kenney said of the ruling, “Today’s ruling benefits every single Philadelphia resident. Our police officers and criminal justice partners will receive much-needed federal funding, and our city will be able to continue practices that keep our communities safe and provide victims and witnesses the security to come forward.”