City of Chicago v. Sessions, No. 17-2991 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program allocates substantial funds annually to provide for the needs of state and local law enforcement, including personnel, equipment, training. In 2017, the Attorney General tied receipt of the funds to the recipient’s compliance with conditions. Chicago, a “sanctuary city,” argued the conditions were unlawful and unconstitutional. The district court agreed and enjoined, nationwide, the enforcement of a condition mandating advance notice to federal authorities of the release date of persons in state or local custody who are believed to be aliens and a condition requiring the local correctional facility to ensure agents access to such facilities to meet with those persons. Compliance with those conditions would require the allocation of state and local resources, including personnel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that it was not assessing “optimal immigration policies” but enforcing the separation of powers doctrine. The statute precisely describes the formula through which funds should be distributed to states and local governments and imposes precise limits on the extent to which the Attorney General can deviate from that distribution. It “is inconceivable that Congress would have anticipated" that the Attorney General could abrogate the distribution scheme and deny funds to states and localities that would qualify under the Byrne JAG statutory provisions, based on a decision to impose conditions—the putative authority for which is provided in another statute (34 U.S.C. 10102(a)(6)).