After less than a year of legal battle, a federal judge has sided with the city of Philadelphia in their lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over ‘sanctuary city’ restrictions that the latter tried to impose.
The ruling, handed down by U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson Wednesday afternoon, means the federal government will not be able to withhold grant funding solely because of Philly’s immigration policy.
The legal battle came after the DOJ added conditions to the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (JAG), which provides federal funding for law enforcement training and overtime, and equipment enhancements. The government would withhold funding for the program unless the city agreed to several immigration enforcement conditions, like giving Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the ability to interview all Philadelphia prison inmates, and giving ICE two days’ notice before releasing prisoners.
Philly has not identified as a sanctuary city, but it has said police are not allowed to ask immigrants about their status in the country.
Philly filed the lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in August, deeming the DOJ’s conditions unlawful. In November they got their first win when Judge Baylson issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the city.
Several city officials who released statements following this week’s ruling, applauded the judge and condemned the DOJ for an unconstitutional move.
“The Judge has determined that the Attorney General, for multiple reasons, violated the Constitution and unlawfully attached conditions to the City’s 2017 Byrne JAG grant application related to the City’s policies regarding immigrants residing in Philadelphia,” City Solicitor Marcel Pratt said.
Philly Mayor Jim Kenney accused Sessions of using the grant money for “a political shakedown.”
“This is an important moment for all Philadelphians, especially our immigrant community,” Philly Mayor Jim Kenney said in the statement. “It prevents a White House run by a bully from bullying Philadelphia into changing its policies.”